For the first time, scientists have found
that bacteria can use a Sonar-like system to spot other cells (either
normal body cells or other bacteria) and target them for destruction.
Reported in the December 24 issue of Science, this finding explains how
some bacteria know when to produce a toxin that makes infection more
severe. It may lead to the design of new toxin inhibitors. “Blocking or
interfering with a bacterium’s “detection?mechanism, should prevent
toxin production and limit the severity of infection,?says Michael
Gilmore, PhD, lead author of the study, and currently director of
research at the Schepens Eye Research Institute and professor of
ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School.
Gilmore and his team have spent years studying the bacterium known as
Enterococcus faecalis, one of the leading causes of hospital-acquired
infections, to find new ways to treat them. These infections are
frequently resistant to many, and sometimes all, antibiotics. Tens of
thousands of deaths due to antibiotic resistant infection occur each
year in the US, adding an estimated $ 4 Billion to health care costs.
Scientist have known since 1934 that especially harmful strains of
Enterococcus produce a toxin that destroys other cells, including human
cells and even other types of bacteria. They also knew that this toxin
was made only under some conditions. Until Gilmore’s study, scientists
were unable to explain how the Enterococcus knew when to make it.
In the Science study, Gilmore and his team found that this toxin is
made whenever there is another cell type in the environment near the
bacterium, such as a human blood cell. They discovered how these
bacteria know when other cells are present, and respond accordingly.
In the laboratory, the team found that Enterococcus releases two
substances into the environment. One substance sticks to foreign cells.
The second substance reports back and tells the Enterococcus to make
the toxin. If no cells are in the area, the first suPage: 1 2 Related biology news :1
Source:Schepens Eye Research Institute
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