Augusta, Ga. Scientists want to make a chink in the armor of a bacterium that has little name recognition yet is the number-one bacterial cause of the diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain Americans experience annually.
While Salmonella is likely quicker to sound an alarm, infection with Campylobacter jejuni is at least 25 times more common. Americans report about 42,000 cases of Salmonella sickness each year compared with approximately 1.3 million cases of Campylobacter infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Chickens and other birds are a major source for both, and, as is becoming the norm, antibiotic resistance is a problem in treating either infection, said Dr. Stuart A. Thompson, microbiologist at the Medical College of Georgia.at Georgia Regents University.
"We are looking for a way to make Campylobacter more vulnerable," said Thompson, who just received a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to learn more about the fascinating film that helps protect Campylobacter.
It's called biofilm, a slimy sugar coating made by bacteria and fungi that coats teeth overnight and leaves a pink ring in rarely used toilets. "Any standing water that goes down and leaves that ring, that is biofilm," Thompson said. In fact, that is basically how scientists grow biofilm in the lab.
However gross if may sound, biofilm is likely super-attractive to bacteria, which use it to deal with excess oxygen or to huddle and hibernate when nutrition is scarce. It's also hard for antibiotics to penetrate and handy in helping bacteria avoid more natural enemies like antibodies and free radicals.
"We are studying how biofilm formation is regulated," said Thompson, who wants to know the primary sugar Campylobacter uses to make its biofilm and how the regulatory protein, CsrA, helps.
"If we know what the sugar is, maybe we
|Contact: Toni Baker|
Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University