“Anthrax is the most efficient biowarfare agent. Its spores are stable and easy to produce, and once someone inhales them, there is only a 48-hour window when antibiotics can be used,” says Fischetti. “We’ve found a new protein that could both potentially expand that treatment window and be used as a large-scale decontaminant of anthrax spores.” Because anthrax spores are resistant to most of the chemicals that emergency workers rely on to sterilize contaminated areas, a solution based on the protein would be a powerful tool for cleaning up after an anthrax attack.
A bacteriums final gasp. A bacillus bacterium, a close relative of anthrax, begins to explode after being treated with PlyPH. The PlyPH protein, discovered by Rockefeller scientists, offers several advantages over existing anthrax treatments.
All bacteria, anthrax included, have natural predators called bacteriophage. Just as viruses infect people, bacteriophage infect bacteria, reproduce, and then kill their host cell by bursting out to find their next target. The bacteriophage use special proteins, called lysins, to bore holes in the bacteria, causing them to literally explode. Fischetti and colleagues identified one of these lysins, called PlyG, in 2004, and showed that it could be used to help treat animals and humans infected by anthrax. Now, they have identified a second lysin, which they have named PlyPH, with special properties that make it not only a good therapeutic agent, but also useful for large-scale decontamination of areas like buildings and military equipment.
The new protein has several advantages. Most lysins, including PlyG, are only active in a very specific pH range of six to seven, so that they work very effectively in our bloodstream, but may not useful in many environmental conditions. “PlyPH works in an extremely wide pH range, from as low as four to as high as eight,” says Fischetti. “I don’t know of any other lytic enzyme that has such a broad range of activity.”
In addition, PlyPH, like PlyG, is highly specific in terms of the types of bacteria it affects. When Fischetti and colleagues added PlyPH to different bacterial species, only the anthrax bacteria were killed. This is a great benefit over antibiotics, which kill many different kinds of bacteria, including many helpful species. Because it is so specific, the chances of anthrax becoming resistant to PlyPH, as it is to many of the antibiotics currently available to treat it, are extremely low.
“We have never seen bacterial resistance to a lysin,” says Fischetti. “PlyPH and PlyG are probably the most specific lysins we, or anyone, has ever identified — they only kill anthrax and its very close relatives. This feature, and the wide pH range offered by PlyPH, is why we think it could be used as an environmental decontaminant.”
Fischetti hopes to combine PlyPH with a non-toxic aqueous substance developed by a group in California that will germinate any anthrax spores it comes in contact with. As the spores germinate, the PlyPH protein will kill them, usually in a matter of minutes. The combined solution could be used in buildings, on transportation equipment, on clothing, even on skin, providing a safe, easy way to fight the spread of anthrax in the event of a mass release.
Journal of Bacteriology 188(7): 2711-2714 (April 2006)
Kristine Kelly | EurekAlert!
One step closer to reality
20.04.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie
The dark side of cichlid fish: from cannibal to caregiver
20.04.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
20.04.2018 | Health and Medicine
20.04.2018 | Materials Sciences
20.04.2018 | Earth Sciences