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Zinc helps reduce bacterial infection

By Tim Sandle     Nov 13, 2013 in Health
Zinc can 'starve' one of the world's most deadly bacteria by preventing its uptake of an essential metal, as indicated by a new medical study.
The issues with zinc relates to an infectious bacterium called Streptococcus pneumonia. S. pneumoniae causes community-acquired pneumonias, accounting for up to 25% of these infections. Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung, affecting primarily the microscopic air sacs known as alveoli. Pneumonia and its symptoms can vary from mild to severe.
What the research has discovered is the way that zinc is able to lock a protein transporter in the bacterium so that it cannot take up manganese, an essential metal that Streptococcus pneumoniae needs to be able to invade and cause disease in humans.
The study has revealed that a bacterial cell transporter called PsaBCA uses a 'spring-hammer' mechanism to bind the metals. The difference in size between the two metals, manganese and zinc, causes the transporter to bind them in different ways.
The study was carried out at the University of Adelaide and The University of Queensland. The research has been published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology. The paper is titled “Imperfect coordination chemistry facilitates metal ion release in the Psa permease.”
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