Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New weapon in germ warfare: ’Jamming’ bacteria signals stops cholera

08.12.2004


A new treatment for the age-old scourge of cholera and perhaps a whole new type of antibiotic medicine may emerge from chemicals discovered in an Australian seaweed, new research results suggest.



Researchers at the University of New South Wales have found that compounds known as furanones – isolated from the seaweed Delisea pulchra – can prevent the bacteria that cause cholera from switching on their disease-causing mechanisms. It seems likely that furanones can have the same effect on many other bacteria, such as those that cause food poisoning and cystic fibrosis-related infections.

Furanones do not kill such microbes but simply "jam" their ability to send signals to each other. This means as well that their use is far less likely to create the drug-resistance problems that plague current anti-microbial treatments. "This is very exciting as these are the first antimicrobials of their type that have been shown to be effective," says Dr Diane McDougald, a Senior Research Associate at the UNSW Centre for Marine Biofouling and Bio-innovation. Dr McDougald is conducting the research in association with UNSW’s Professor Staffan Kjelleberg and Professor Peter Steinberg. "The fact that furanones prevent bacterial communication means that they may be effective against a wide range of bacteria that have communication systems, such as the bacteria that cause golden Staph infections and tuberculosis," she says.


"These bacteria have become resistant to many antibiotics and are becoming harder and harder to treat. "Because furanones don’t kill the bacteria, there is no selection pressure for them to develop resistance. Indeed, in a million years of evolution, no natural resistance has been developed by bacteria to these furanones in the natural environment."

The team has found that when the bacteria that cause cholera – Vibrio cholerae – are exposed to furanones, they cannot switch on their so-called virulence factors associated with infection and the development of the disease. "The new experiments suggest that furanones may prevent cholera bacteria from escaping the host immune response and secreting toxins to weaken their host," says Dr McDougald.

Many bacteria rely on a signalling system known as quorum sensing to detect when enough of their own kind is present and then change their behaviour and attach themselves to a surface on a host or in the environment. The seaweed, a red algal species found at a UNSW marine research site in Sydney’s Botany Bay, produces the compounds to prevent bacteria from forming biofilms on its leaves.

The discovery – so far only established in laboratory tests -- is now being tested further in trials involving mice and tissue cultures. Publication in a scientific journal is pending.

The number of officially reported cholera cases worldwide varies between 110,000 and 200,000 cases a year, causing an average of about 5,000 deaths, but the World Health Organisation believes the true number is probably significantly higher.

Infections occur as a result of contact with water and food contaminated with Vibrio cholerae, which is widely dispersed around the world in estuaries and coastal waters. "There is an increasing number of antibiotic resistant bacteria and a decreasing number of drugs in the pipeline," Dr McDougald says. "Thus, we need to find new approaches to treat bacterial infections." The furanone compounds are especially exciting as they do not kill the bacteria, but just stop them from expressing disease-causing traits. This means that there is no pressure on the bacteria to develop resistance."

Professor Kjelleberg and Professor Steinberg discovered furanones’ ability to interfere with bacterial signaling systems in the 1990s. Synthetic versions of these compounds have since been made. In 1999 a separate company Biosignal Ltd was established to act as a vehicle for commercialisation of selected "smart molecules", including furanones, identified in the research activities of the UNSW Centre for Marine Biofouling and Bioinnovation.

Dr. Diane McDougald | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.unsw.edu.au

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution
27.03.2017 | Lancaster University

nachricht Parallel computation provides deeper insight into brain function
27.03.2017 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Northern oceans pumped CO2 into the atmosphere

27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Big data approach to predict protein structure

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>