European research combating resistant Salmonella strains

by Editor fleischwirtschaft.com
Tuesday, January 09, 2007

An international team of researchers has uncovered critical, previously undetected properties of Salmonella pathogens, possibly opening the door to new opportunities for prevention.

Researchers from the UK and Germany discovered unknown processes, which enable the bacterium to quickly adapt to its harsh environment such as the stomach and intestines through constant communication with the world around it. A better understanding of how it survives can help health experts identify a weakness in its defences they might be able to exploit to their advantage.

Salmonella induced food poisoning costs the UK economy alone around €1.5 billion each year, and experts from the Institute of Food Research there and the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology of Germany teamed up to gain insight into how the pathogen copes with stress in various environments.

The team discovered that Salmonella bacteria responds to external stress by constantly inserting outer membrane proteins (OMPs) into the cell wall which regulate the transport of salts with which the bacterium communicates with its environment. This research, published in the journal Molecular Microbiology, reveals that Salmonella uses a built-in surveillance mechanism to constantly monitor levels of OMPs to respond quickly to external factors by switching off protein expression using molecules called small RNAs (sRNAs).

The research team used a revolutionary new approach combining bioinformatics techniques with microarray technology to first identify the sRNAs and then search the 5000 genes in the Salmonella genome for the targets to which they bind. The researchers then confirmed these results by studying a mutant strain lacking the sRNA mechanism.

This research could be used in the future to exploit the weaknesses of these dangerous bacteria to help develop new antibacterials to combat infections when current antibiotics are no longer effective. The proportion of drug resistant Salmonella bacteria has been increasing in recent years.

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