Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have discovered a new mechanism that allows cells to fight a class of toxins made by a wide variety of disease-causing bacteria.
Photo of normal roundworms (top) and ill roundworms (bottom) without gene that permits resistance to pore-forming toxin. Credit: Danielle Huffman, UCSD
Their discovery, detailed in this week’s early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could eventually pave the way for the development of new, more effective treatments for bacterial diseases that kill or sicken millions of people each year, such as pneumonia, strep throat, scarlet fever, rheumatic fever and toxic shock syndrome.
The essential achievement in the UCSD discovery is the team’s finding that animal cells, from roundworms to mammals, have a natural defense mechanism to ward off certain kinds of bacteria that secrete toxins in order to form tiny holes in the membranes of the cells they infect. Scientists estimate that such “pore-forming” bacterial toxins account for approximately one-quarter of the known protein “virulence factors” that increase the infection and severity of a bacterial-caused disease.
Kim McDonald | newswise
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