FimZ is the difference between Salmonella sticking(top) or swimming (bottom)
© S. Clegg
Drug leads in protein that sends gut bacteria packing
A protein enables harmful Salmonella bacteria to switch from clinging to our gut lining to swimming off. This get-up-and-go is so crucial to Salmonella’s survival that the protein could prove to be a good target for drugs.
The Salmonella variant Typhimurium causes around 1.4 million cases of food poisoning in the United States each year, and about 1,000 deaths - mainly among infants and the elderly. The bug grips the gut wall to cause infection, and swims off to avoid immune-system attacks or to infect another host.
Clegg and Hughes suspect that FimZ is half of a two-component system. Many bacteria use such protein pairs to sense their surroundings.
Disrupting FimZ production inside Salmonella may be enough to stop the microbes in their tracks. But blocking the other protein, which sits on the outside of the bacteria, might work even better. This would blind a bug to the subtle chemical cues that tell it whether to stay or go.
"If you can knock out that molecule, the bacteria won’t be able to interact with their environment," says Clegg. He hopes that more cellular sleuthing will identify the external molecule, which is a tempting target for future drugs or vaccines.
TOM CLARKE | © Nature News Service
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