Many living things, from fruit flies to people, naturally produce disease-fighting chemicals, called antimicrobial peptides, to kill harmful bacteria. In a counter move, some disease-causing bacteria have evolved microbial detectors. The bacteria sense the presence of antimicrobial peptides as a warning signal. The alarm sets off a reaction inside the bacteria to avoid destruction.
University of Washington (UW) and McGill researchers have revealed a molecular mechanism whereby bacteria can recognize tiny antimicrobial peptide molecules, then respond by becoming more virulent. Their studies were done on the bacterium Salmonella typhimurium. The findings were published in the Aug. 12 edition of the journal Cell.
Salmonella typhimurium can contaminate meats such as beef, pork, and chicken, as well as cereals and other foods, and cause severe intestinal illness. Certain strains of the bacteria are difficult to treat, and are behind the increase of salmonellosis in people. Some food science institutes anticipate that virulent strains of salmonella will become more common throughout the food chain. Learning how this sometimes deadly organism fights back against the immune system may lead to treatments that get around bacterial resistance.
Leila Gray | EurekAlert!
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