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Common food preservative might provide treatment for cystic fibrosis

Researchers led by a University of Cincinnati (UC) scientist say they have discovered what might be the "Achilles' heel" of a dangerous organism that lives in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients--a fatal flaw that leaves the organism vulnerable to destruction by a common food preservative.

It has been known for some time that the bacterium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, grows within the deadly, lung-clogging mucous found in the airways of cystic fibrosis patients and significantly weakens them.

The new study suggests, however, that a mutation--known as mucA--in the organism also represents a fatal flaw that could help physicians clear the characteristic "goop" from the lungs of advanced cystic fibrosis patients.

The reason for optimism, the researchers say, is that the same genetic change that turns Pseudomonas aeruginosa into a sticky, antibiotic-resistant killer also leaves it susceptible to destruction by slightly acidified sodium nitrite, a common chemical that is widely used in the curing of lunch meat, sausages and bacon.

The finding is reported in the February 2006 edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation by a 15-member U.S. and Canadian team headed by Daniel Hassett, PhD, an associate professor in UC's molecular genetics, biochemistry and microbiology department. The research was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.

"We believe that we have discovered the Achilles' heel of the formidable mucoid form of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which could lead to improved treatment for cystic fibrosis airway disease," said Dr. Hassett. "We can essentially say that this organism, which some people thought could never be beaten, can now be destroyed by nothing more exotic than a common food preservative."

Cystic fibrosis, which affects about 30,000 people in the United States, mostly Caucasians of north European origin, is an inherited disease c
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Contact: David Bracey
david.bracey@uc.edu
513-558-4559
University of Cincinnati
26-Jan-2006


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