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Bacteria may lead to antimicrobial drugs

New methods of tackling E.coli, salmonella and brucella infections could be found now that scientists have discovered how some bacteria act to protect themselves

New methods of tackling E.coli, salmonella and brucella infections could be found now that scientists have discovered how some bacteria act to protect themselves when they are threatened or under attack.  

The findings are the culmination of 25 years of studies, led by Professor Ian Booth at the University of Aberdeen and Dr Tarmo Roosild at Nevada Cancer Institute in Las Vegas. The team has worked out the mechanics of 'channels' in bacteria, which stay shut if all is normal and are triggered to open in defence situations.

The breakthrough finding, published in the journal, Structure, could also be used in the fight against the bacteria Pseudomonas, which often colonises the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients and causes infection in those whose immune systems are compromised.

Professor Booth collaborated with Nevada Cancer Institute and the Salk Institute in San Diego, California on the research, which received funding from the Wellcome Trust.

The research focused on E.coli but the protective channel system is common to many pathogens that cause infection and disease.

Professor Booth said: "It is tremendously exciting to have made this breakthrough in understanding the molecular workings of these protective channels that are found in several pathogens, many of which are increasingly resistant to traditional antibiotics."

"Our next challenge is to design chemicals that fool the bacterium into locking the channel open all the time, which will then impair its growth, or we could lock it shut so it can't protect itself."

Dr Roosild added: "Discovery of new drugs through the structural analysis of proteins that underlie diseases, including cancer, and are potentially molecular targets for therapeutic intervention, is the primary focus of our research."

"The hope is that these particular studies will eventually lead to the development of new medicines that will cure people with deep seated bacterial infections such as those in intensive care."

10th June 2009

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