Thieving bacteria steal iron from us

February 21st, 2009 - 4:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 21 (IANS) Bacteria that cause urinary tract infections (UTIs) make more tools for stealing from their host than friendly versions of the same bacteria found in the gut, according to the latest research.
The tools, compounds called siderophores, allow the bad bacteria to steal iron from their hosts, making it easier for the bacteria to survive and reproduce.

But they also provide a potential way to target the bad strains of bacteria for eradication without adversely affecting the good strains, researchers report.

“When we treat an infection with antibiotics, it’s like dropping a bomb - nearly everything gets wiped out, regardless of whether it’s helpful or harmful,” said co-author Jeff Henderson, Washington University infectious disease specialist who treats patients with UTIs at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

“We’d like to find ways to target the bad bacteria and leave the good bacteria alone, and these siderophores are a great lead in that direction,” he added.

UTIs are one of the most common infections, causing around $1.6 billion in medical expenses every year in the US. Half of all women will experience a UTI at some point in their lives, and recurrent UTIs affect 20 to 40 percent of these patients.

Scientists believe 90 percent of all UTIs are caused by the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli), said a Washington release.

The E. coli that cause UTIs may come from the human gut, where several strains of the bacteria reside. Scientists think some of those strains help their human hosts by aiding digestion and blocking other infectious organisms.

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