Disrupting Bacteria Communication

Posted on November 16, 2007  Comments (1)

Princeton scientists break cholera’s lines of communication

A team of Princeton scientists has discovered a key mechanism in how bacteria communicate with each other, a pivotal breakthrough that could lead to treatments for cholera and other bacterial diseases.

The mechanism is a chemical that cholera bacteria use for transmitting messages to each other, known as CAI-1, and has been isolated in the lab of molecular biologist Bonnie Bassler. Her team has shown that the chemical also can be used to disrupt the communication that exists among the bacteria, potentially halting the disease’s progress. The discovery could lead to an entirely new class of antibiotics.

Higgins isolated the CAI-1 chemical, which occurs naturally in cholera. Then, Megan Pomianek, a graduate student in the laboratory of Martin Semmelhack, a professor of chemistry at Princeton, determined how to make the molecule in the laboratory. Higgins used this chemical essentially to control cholera’s behavior in lab tests.

The team found that when CAI-1 is absent, cholera bacteria act as pathogens. But when the bacteria detect enough of this chemical, they stop making biofilms and releasing toxins, perceiving that it is time to leave the body instead. “Our findings demonstrate that if you supply CAI-1 to cholera, you can flip their switches to stop the attack,” Higgins said.

Chemist Helen Blackwell of the University of Wisconsin-Madison praised the study, calling it a breakthrough for quorum sensing research, and possibly for medical science.

Related: Entirely New Antibiotic Developed to Fight MRSAHow do antibiotics kill bacteria?Antibiotic Discovery StagnatesHacking Your Body’s Bacteria

One Response to “Disrupting Bacteria Communication”

  1. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Bacteria Communicate Using a Chemical Language
    April 10th, 2009 @ 2:11 pm

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