Saturday, 17 Mar, 2007 Health & Fitness

A Trojan-horse strategy selected to fight bacteria


Researchers at the University of Washington have probably found a way to defeat the bacteria, which become more and more resistant to drugs. A new method of fighting such bacteria was recently used and it proved to be successful on mice.

One of the problems of today's medical researches is the fact that bacteria become more and more resistant to antibiotics. The medicine cannot provide an effective drug to kill all the chronic infections occurring in wounds or in the lungs of people with cystic fibrosis.

This way the current study is directed at finding a new approach in fighting upper mentioned bacteria; and a result has been already found. This time scientists didn't spend their time finding substances that were capable of defeating a certain bacteria in laboratory, but they tried to find a way to 'help' the body's own defense systems defeating these bacteria.

Pradeep Singh, associate professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of Washington and the senior author of current study, explained that there is a critical fight for iron between the alien bacteria and the human body. Thus the function of the cells defending the human organism is to keep the iron away from the bacteria, while the latter will 'try to steal' the iron from the host cells.

Iron is a very important material for growth of bacteria and without iron they wouldn't have the ability to built biofilm or colonies of microbes to cause chronic infections. "Because iron is so important in infection, we thought infecting bacteria might be vulnerable to interventions that target iron," said Yukihiro Kaneko, one of the author's of the current study and a senior fellow in microbiology at the University of Washington.

The similarity of iron and gallium made the researchers use the latter as a Trojan horse to 'draw' the bacteria to it. Being lured to gallium, the bacteria will try to use it, but there will be no effect, as despite their similarity, the two metals have different functions.

Bradley Britigan, a researcher from the University of Cincinnati co-authoring the present study, led the group, which suggested the idea of using gallium to substitute iron.

F.D.A. has already approved gallium for treating hypercalcemia and malignancy. This fact implies that this metal could have a great potential in treating individuals infected with cystic fibrosis or other similar infections.

The experiments have shown that gallium effectively fought microbes. Moreover its action became stronger in environments with low level of iron (such conditions are often met in human bodies).

The April cover of the Journal of Clinical Investigation will cover this joint project, which will be also supported by Matthew Thoendel, a medial student at the University of Iowa, by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and by the National Institutes of Health.

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