Pharmaceutical International News - May 2012
Cholera Bacteria Research Could Launch New Drugs
Posted by Paul Fiddian - Pharmaceutical International's Lead Reporter on 31/05/2012 - 09:15:00
US-based scientists have discovered how Vibrio cholera, the bacteria behind cholera infections, can resist a fundamental human immune response mechanism. As a result, a new generation of cholera drug treatments could emerge, capable of directing immune systems to kill off these infections.
Cholera is contracted by millions around the world every single year and, especially rife in undeveloped nations, it's responsible for many thousands of deaths. Transmitted mainly through contaminated water and food supplies, it's capable of inducing extreme dehydration after intense, episodic vomiting and diarrhoea spells.
Efficient water treatment processes have all but eradicated cholera within developed nations but, elsewhere, it remains a major problem.
Based at the University of Texas, the scientists have found out that, in order to get past the immune system, the Vibrio cholera bacteria adds a layer of amino acids to its outer shell. These amino acids modify the bacteria's electrical status from negative to neutral and, since the peptide molecules used to counter infections are positively charged, the bacteria deflects them away and continues on its journey uninhibited.
While the fact that the cholera bacteria resists the immune system's attempts to block it has been known for some time, the University of Texas reports that, prior to its discovery, no one else has previously been able to explain the process.
New Cholera Drugs
Such knowledge could now provide a platform for effective new cholera drug treatments to be developed.
"If you understand the mechanism, the bacterial target, you're more likely to be able to design an effective antibiotic", head researcher Stephen Trent explained in a University of Texas press release issued at the end of May 2012.
He added: "If we can go directly at these amino acids that it uses to protect against us, and then allow our own innate immune system to kill the bug, there could be less selection pressure." To that end, Trent and his colleagues are now on the search for compounds capable of encouraging this response and Pharma News will report further on their research in future News Items.
Vibrio cholera image copyright Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility
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