Scientists have discovered an Achilles heel within our cells
that bacteria are able to exploit to cause and spread infection.
say their findings could lead to the development of new anti-infective drugs as
alternatives to antibiotics whose overuse has led to resistance.
University of Manchester researchers studied Listeria—a potentially deadly group of bacteria that can cause
listeriosis in humans when digested—and found they are able to spread infection
by hitching a ride on a naturally occurring protein called calpain.
a number of chemicals that allow them to invade a host and to establish an
infection,” said lead researcher Dr David Brough, who is based in Manchester’s Faculty of
produced depend upon many factors, such as the species of bacteria, the type of
host, and also whether the infection grows inside or outside a cell.
investigated the growth of Listeria, a pathogenic bacterium that grows inside
cells. An essential step for its growth, and thus the infection, is the
bacteria’s ability to move from within one compartment in a cell to another.
that in order for this particular type of bacteria to move and to grow some of
the host cells biology is exploited, a protein called calpain. Without calpain
the bacteria cannot move within the cell and so do not grow.
highlights the possibility of using drugs against these host proteins to block
infections, potentially reducing the need to use antibiotics.”
The study, funded
by the Wellcome Trust, is published in Public Library of Science (PLoS) One.