Health Watch — Bacteria: Stopping Sickness

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications  and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.


This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about fighting bacteria, especially the kind that come in food. Previously, we discussed research to find new drugs for fighting bacteria such as  Salmonella or E. coli. Scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center are taking a new approach, looking not just at the bacteria themselves, but what they do.

Potentially harmful bacteria lie dormant in the human body, and they only become a problem when they receive a molecular signal that tells them to release toxins and cause infections. The researchers have found a molecule that appears to block bacteria from receiving this signal, so they remain harmless. Dr. Vanessa Sperandio, a UT Southwestern microbiologist, says this is a totally new way to fight illness. Since using this molecule doesn’t kill or damage the bacteria, they don’t develop drug resistance. Tests show the treatment works in three gastrointestinal infections, but it could work with other kinds of bacteria.

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October 2008

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