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article imageNew drug target designed to attack gut bacteria

By Tim Sandle     Oct 24, 2016 in Science
Gastroenteritis is caused by some foodborne bacteria. Researchers have designed a new antimicrobial drug to take on one of the world’s most prevalent foodborne bacteria.
The bacterium in question is Campylobacter jejuni. This organism is among the most common causes of bacterial infections in humans worldwide, causing the disease campylobacteriosis. Infection causes diarrhea, and also fever, abdominal pain, nausea, headache and muscle pain. The source of the infection is most commonly poultry, especially when under-cooked. A second route is through contaminated milk or water.
Microbiologists at Griffith's Institute for Glycomics have identified a unique sensory structure capable of binding host-specific sugar found on the cell wall of the bacterium. The direct-sensing galactose chemoreceptor is found on the most virulent strains of the bacterium. The identification is a sign of a potential drug target.
The identified sensor is involved with the ability of the bacterium to move towards their target host cells. The receptor helps the organism is to sense their environment, and it represents the first reported case of a bacterial sensor that can bind sugar directly.
To test this, the microbiologists developed a model using chickens. For this bacteria were used with the receptor active and with it disabled (mutant types.) the study showed bacteria with the sensor disabled had a much reduced ability to colonize and infect chickens.
Outlining why this is significant, the lead researcher, Professor Victoria Korolik explains: “This is a very important finding as sensory structures are very specific to each bacteria and offer high target specificity for design of new antimicrobial compounds.”
This means it should be possible to develop a novel antimicrobial drug to target a specific pathogen, in this case Campylobacter. This form of drug would be less likely to be affected by the organism developing antimicrobial resistance.
In addition, by understanding more about the ability of bacterial sensors to bind to chemicals could lead to other drugs aimed at stopping other pathogens.
The research is published in the journal Nature Communications. The research is titled “A direct-sensing galactose chemoreceptor recently evolved in invasive strains of Campylobacter jejuni.”
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