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Microbes & Hosts Fight to Acquire Essential Metals: This Battle May Open the Door for New Treatments

JAN 10, 2017 | KRISTI ROSA
According to the press release, the researchers “targeted a molecule that Salmonella and other bacteria secrete to scavenge iron.” They found that, “immunization against this molecule” decreased growth of Salmonella thanks to a number of antibodies that had been created during the immunization process. Not only did this process reduce growth, but it also resulted in “much lower levels of the bacteria.”
 
An approach like this may have the potential to substitute for antibiotic use, which is needed in a world that is experiencing increased antibiotic resistance. According to Dr. Nolan, “We have a huge problem in terms of infectious disease and antibiotic resistance. One aspect we like about our strategy is that it’s narrow-spectrum, in contrast to many small-molecule antibiotics that are broad-spectrum and can disrupt the commensal [beneficial] microbiota, which can then have secondary negative consequences for the patient.”
 
In addition to her work with siderophores, Dr. Nolan has also examined the different proteins that both mammals and humans alike use in defense against potential bacterial infection. One such defensive protein is calprotectin, a protein that prevents microbes from obtaining essential metals by “scavenging” for them itself. The researchers found, back in 2015, that calprotectin can actually withhold iron, and by doing so, it keeps the essential metal away from harmful microbes that need it to survive and grow.
 
These findings and future research work toward a common goal: to be better prepared when it comes to bacterial infections. Through the creation of new strategies that are narrow-spectrum, researchers are working to better fight against these harmful infections and lessen the risk of these pathogens developing resistance to antibiotics.
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