Discovery: blocking E. coli receptor averts infection
A newly discovered receptor in a strain of Escherichia coli can be blocked to avert infection, a finding that might aid in developing better therapies to treat bacterial infections resulting in food poisoning, diarrhoea or plague.
Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center are the first to identify the receptor, known as QseC, used by a diarrhoea-causing strain of E. coli to receive signals from human flora and hormones in the intestine and express virulence genes to initiate infection.
In a study made available online this week and in an upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers describe how they used phentolamine, an alpha blocker drug used to treat hypertension, to successfully impede signalling to the receptor. Without such signals, bacteria then pass blindly through the digestive tract without infecting cells.
“This receptor is found in many pathogens, so we can use this knowledge to design specific antagonists to block bacterial infections,” said Dr Vanessa Sperandio, senior author of the study and assistant professor of microbiology at UT Southwestern.
The work was supported by the US Institutes of Health and the Ellison Foundation.