Culprit protein behind many infections identified

April 29th, 2008 - 2:23 pm ICT by admin  

London, April 29 (IANS) Scientists have identified a protein that greatly boosts the virulence of E coli, known to cause more than 80 percent of all urinary tract and intestinal infections. The discovery could help open up ways to disable the bacterium and make treatment of such infections easier and shorter.

E coli attaches itself to host cells by means of adhesive filaments, known as pili, whose production is vastly accelerated by the protein.

These threads also enable them to penetrate host cells, where the pathogens can evade attack by antibiotics, ScienceDaily reported.

New research shows that a particular protein called FimD is central to the rapid replication of the pili. A single pilus can assemble as many as 3,000 proteins within a few minutes.

This process needs no additional energy from the cell. On the other hand, if FimD is absent, very short pilus fragments consisting of only a few pilus components are formed, and this only occurs after hours or days.

ETH Zurich researchers led by Mireille Nishiyama succeeded in purifying the FimD protein in a biologically active form so it could develop its catalytic activity fully even in a test tube.

Combined with antibiotics, the finding could combat the bacteria and might also provide a more effective way to fight urinary tract infections caused by E coli.

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