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Compounds in cranberry juice show promise as alternatives to antibiotics

WORCESTER, Mass. September 8, 2006 Compounds in cranberry juice have the ability to change E. coli bacteria, a class of microorganisms responsible for a host of human illnesses (everything from kidney infections to gastroenteritis to tooth decay), in ways that render them unable to initiate an infection. The results of this new research by scientists at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) suggest that the cranberry may provide an alternative to antibiotics, particularly for combating E. coli bacteria that have become resistant to conventional treatment.

The new findings, which will be presented on Sunday, Sept. 10, at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco, for the first time begin to paint a detailed picture of the biochemical mechanisms that may underlie a number of beneficial health effects of cranberry juice that have been reported in other studies over the years.

Many of those studies have focused on the ability of cranberry juice to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs), which each year affect eight million peoplemostly women, the elderly, and infants--resulting in $1.6 billion in health care costs. Until now, scientists have not understood exactly how cranberry juice prevents UTIs and other bacterial infections, though they have suspected that compounds in the juice somehow prevent bacteria from adhering to the lining of the urinary tract. The new findings reveal how the compounds interfere with adhesion at the molecular level.

The new results will be incorporated in two presentations during a session that runs from 8:30 to 11:40 a.m. in the Windsor Room of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel.

The research, by Terri Camesano, associate professor of chemical engineering at WPI, and graduate students Yatao Liu and Paola Pinzon-Arango, and funded, in part, by the National Science Foundation, shows that a group of tannins (called proanthocyanidins) found primarily in cranberries affect E. coli in
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Contact: Michael Dorsey
mwdorsey@wpi.edu
508-831-5609
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
10-Sep-2006


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