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Study Unravels Inner Working of Bacteria

Discovery may lead to ways to prevent infections from germs

TUESDAY, June 27, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- New research may allow scientists to prevent a certain strain of E. coli bacteria from causing illness in people who have contracted the bacterial infection.

This development may also be effective in preventing other types of bacterial infections, and help reduce dependence on antibiotic treatments, the researchers said.

Scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have identified a receptor, QseC, that E. coli uses to receive signals from the intestine and subsequently transmit the bacteria into the intestine to cause infection and symptoms such as diarrhea.

Once the infection-releasing receptor was identified, the researchers were then able to block the signals sent from the intestine using phentolamine, an alpha blocker commonly prescribed to control high blood pressure.

"This receptor is found in many pathogens, so we can use this knowledge to design specific antagonists to block bacterial infections," study author Dr. Vanessa Sperandio, assistant professor of microbiology at the university, said in a prepared statement.

The researchers studied the effect of adrenergic antagonists -- including alpha and beta blockers -- on the QseC receptor's capacity to receive signals from the hormones in the intestine. Phentolamine was successful in adhering to the receptor and filling the space that it would normally fill with the epinephrine and norepinephrine signals sent from the intestines.

The findings from this study, published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may provide better insight into future treatments for bacterial infections without the use of antibiotics, the researchers said.

"Overuse of antibiotics has led bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics, so a novel type of therapy is needed," Sperandio said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on E. coli.

SOURCE: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, news release, June 26, 2006
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