Nitric oxide can ward off deadly infections

July 24th, 2011 - 3:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 24 (IANS) Nitric oxide acts against Salmonella — a common food poisoning bug — by disrupting its metabolism, thereby keeping infection at bay.

“Nitric oxide is naturally produced in the nose and the gut and other tissues in the body to ward off infection,” explains senior study author Ferric Fang, professor of lab medicine, microbiology and medicine at the University of Washington.

Fang explained that it keeps many types of disease-causing bacteria at bay. It also prevents an overgrowth of the body’s many helpful bacteria, reports the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Nitric oxide, not to be confused with nitrous oxide, the laughing gas in dentists’ offices, is similar to the preservatives in hotdogs, Fang said, according to a Washington statement.

Fang’s team looked at the multi-pronged action of nitric oxide on Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. This type of Salmonella can contaminate food and is similar to the bacteria that cause typhoid fever.

Nitric oxide and related chemicals put Salmonella into a difficult situation called nitrosative stress. When exposed to nitric oxide, Salmonella is unable to make two essential amino acids, methionine and lysine. Without these, Salmonella cannot grow.

“This is bad news for the bacteria, but not for the host,” Fang said. “Nitric oxide doesn’t damage the host that produces it.”

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