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Potential new ways to design vaccines, antibiotics

January 27, 2016

"Bacteria need to live on high protein and amino acids as sources of nutrition and energy in order to replicate in a host. This is what causes pulmonary disease," Abu Kwaik said. "No one has known how they generate sufficient sources of nutrients from the host to proliferate. Our work is the first to identify this process for any bacteria that cause disease."

He added that the type of host infected does not appear to affect the process. "Whether in a single-cell amoeba or a multi-cellular mammal, Legionella seems to know what to do; the process is the same, and is highly conserved through evolution. By interfering with the bacterium's sources of nutrients, we can stop it from thriving and causing disease."

Examining nutrient sources for organisms with the goal of stopping them from acquiring nutrients is a relatively new arena of basic research that deserves further study, he said. "We went after the basics - the food and energy source - which are prerequisite for the bacteria to grow and cause disease. It is not a process that is well understood yet, but by first discovering how an organism gets nutrients by tricking the host into degrading proteins, and then interfering with that process, we can, in effect, starve it to death and prevent or treat the disease."

Source: University of Louisville