Scientists from the University of Guelph have used the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan to better understand how several infectious bacteria, including E. coli., build a protective sugar-based barrier that helps cloak their cells.
Published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the Guelph research provides the very early steps toward new treatments for E. coli and a whole range of bacteria. Their particular focus is on strains of E. coli that cause urinary tract and bloodstream infections, particularly those that are antibiotic resistant.
The research is looking to understand the enzyme that many infectious bacteria use to build the foundations of their protective capsule. The capsule helps shield the bacterium from attack by the human immune system and exists in many clinically distinct variants.
Making vaccines or drugs that targets the capsule itself directly is impractical as such treatments would target only a few bacteria. Instead, the Guelph team is focused on a key enzyme that builds the capsule foundation. This foundation could serve as a common point of attack, allowing a single treatment for several key pathogens infecting humans and livestock.
“We are interested in the machinery that builds the bacterium’s protective layer,” said Dr. Chris Whitfield, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. “By understanding and targeting the machinery, we can render the pathogen unable to survive in the host”.
Read more on the Canadian Light Source website
Image : Matthew Kimber, Chris Whitfield, and enzyme