Mechanics of bacteriums toxin being unraveled

SALT LAKE CITY Researchers are unraveling the mystery of what happens when a bacteriums toxin hits its cellular target. In an age of growing antibiotic resistance and a threat of bioterrorism, such knowledge may help to open new lines of treatment, says a microbiologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In a presentation today at the 102nd annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, Brenda A. Wilson described her basic research and recent findings involving Pasteurella multocida, a bacterium that once left her hospitalized and near death. The bacterium, she said, offers a window to view the mechanics of many toxin-mediated bacterial diseases, including anthrax, which left five people dead from acts of terrorism last year despite extensive treatment with antibiotics.

A big problem now is antibiotic resistance, but we also need alternative strategies for attacking toxin-mediated disease after exposure to toxins, she said in an interview in advance of her talk. Current strategies, such as vaccine therapy or treatment with antitoxins or other inhibitors, are focused on blocking a toxin from binding to cells. My studies consider that exposure has already occurred. Once the toxin is in and hits its target, what do we do? I want to understand what a toxin does after it hits the target.

Pasteurella multocida is a well-known pathogen in veterinary medicine. Its various strains affect domesticated and agricultural animals, leading usually to serious, and often deadly, respiratory infections. Contact with animals sometimes results in respiratory problems in humans, and skin infections can occur after being bitten by an animal. The bacterium is even part of the Komodo dragons deadly bite.

Disease doesnt always occur, Wilson said, but a synergistic effect with another microorganism, such as Mycoplasma or Bordatella, often has serious consequences.

In 1997, Wilson discovered that the Pasteurella multocida toxins tar

Contact: Jim Barlow
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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