Scientists find Salmonella’s weakness

May 25th, 2009 - 5:06 pm ICT by IANS  

London, May 25 (IANS) Scientists seem to have found the achilles heel of a food poisoning pathogen like salmonella - its weakness for glucose. This discovery could provide a new way to vaccinate against Salmonella, or lead to vaccine strains to protect against other disease-causing bacteria, including superbugs.
“This is the first time that anyone has identified the nutrients that sustain Salmonella while it is infecting a host’s body,” said Arthur Thompson from the Institute of Food Research in Britain.

The nutrition of bacteria during infection is an emerging science. This is one of the first major breakthroughs, achieved in collaboration with Gary Rowley at the University of East Anglia.

Salmonella bug infects around 20 million people worldwide every year, of whom about 200,000 die annually. It also infects farm animals and salad vegetables.

During infection, Salmonella bacteria are engulfed by immune cells designed to kill them. But instead, the bacteria multiply. The bacteria must acquire nutrients to replicate and thus, the scientists focused on glycolysis, the process by which sugars are broken down to create chemical energy.

They constructed Salmonella mutants unable to transport glucose into the immune cells they occupy and unable to use glucose as food. These mutant strains lost their ability to replicate within immune cells, rendering them harmless

“Our experiments showed that glucose is the major sugar used by Salmonella during infection,” said Thompson.

The mutant strains still stimulate the immune system, and the scientists have filed patents on them which could be used to develop vaccines to protect people and animals against poisoning by fully virulent salmonella, said an East Anglia release.

The next stage of the research will be to test whether the mutants elicit a protective immune response in mice.

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