Dysentery Bacteria Use Sugars To Stick Around

Shigella flexneri bacteria, which cause millions of episodes of dysentery each year, use their cell surface sugars to bind to human cells.

AsianScientist (Dec. 29, 2015) – Pathogenic bacteria can initiate infection by using their surface sugars (or glycans) to attach directly to sugars on the surface of human cells, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers from the University of Adelaide and Griffith University suggest the discovery could change the way scientists explore vaccine development and drug discovery for infectious diseases.

Previously, the interaction was either not thought possible or was considered a weak, non-important interaction, according to the researchers, Associate Professor Renato Morona and Dr. Elizabeth Tran from the University of Adelaide’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

“As a result of the discovery we now have a better understanding of how bacteria initiate infections and how many current vaccines work,” said Morona.

“The discovery is fundamental knowledge that is broadly applicable to many other bacteria and microbes, and could have other translational outcomes such as new probes for studying human cells, and development of better infant milk formula,” Morona added.

Morona’s laboratory showed that Shigella flexneri bacteria, which cause millions of episodes of dysentery in humans each year, use the sugars of their surface lipopolysaccharide molecules to stick to human gut cells.

No Shigella vaccines are currently available despite decades of research worldwide, and the bacteria can be resistant to many antibiotics. He believes this latest research will advance progress towards new vaccines and other ways to block the sugars.

The article can be found at: Day et al. (2015) Glycan:glycan Interactions: High Affinity Biomolecular Interactions that can Mediate Binding of Pathogenic Bacteria to Host Cells.


Source: The University of Adelaide; Photo: Uwe Hermann/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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