CMU researchers find simple treatment for intestinal bacteria - Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation - Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, January 19, 2012

CMU researchers find simple treatment for intestinal bacteria

Carnegie Mellon University researchers have come up with a simple treatment that may thwart one of the world's most virulent infections.

Somshuvra Mukhopadhyay and Adam Linstedt found that administering manganese protected mice against the devastating Shiga toxin, a type of infection that kills more than 1 million people a year worldwide, mostly children in developing nations. The Shiga toxin is secreted by some strains of the bacteria Shigella, and more recently has begun to show up in strains of E. coli bacteria.

It was at the center of the outbreak of diarrhea and kidney damage caused by contaminated food in Germany last year.

The CMU findings grew out of basic research on how cells process different substances. The Shiga toxin is produced by a tiny organism known as a bacteriophage, which infects certain bacteria and incorporates its genes into the bacteria's genome.

The organism has evolved the ability to avoid the cell's normal machinery for disposing of unwanted substances. In a report being published Friday in the journal Science, the CMU team found that manganese restores the ability of the bacterial cells to get rid of the Shiga toxin.

Laboratory mice that were given lethal doses of the toxin were completely protected by the manganese. Researchers said in an interview that this might one day allow doctors to treat patients with antibiotics and manganese to kill off the bacteria and block the Shiga toxin.

Article courtesy of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette