Scientists have developed a new way of tackling bacteria by preventing them from releasing toxins.
The molecule LED209 does not kill the bugs like conventional antibiotics, but simply “de-arms” them.
Biochemical signals from the body normally trigger the release of bacterial toxins. Without them, bugs such as the food poisoning pathogen salmonella would not cause any harm.
LED209 stops bacteria responding to the signals, thereby preventing them from making people ill.
Scientists tested the molecule on laboratory cultures of the food poisoning bacteria Escherichia coli and salmonella, and the bug Francisella tularensis (F tularensis), which is spread by animals.
They also found that it blocked the effects of salmonella and F tularensis in mice.
Drugs which act in the same way as LED209 could be effective against at least 25 animal and plant bacteria, including those responsible for Legionnaire’s disease and the lung infection bug Haemophilus influenzae, researchers said.
Dr Vanessa Sperandio, who led the team from the University of Texas in Dallas, US, commented: “What we have here is a completely novel approach to combating illness.”
The research is published in the online edition of the journal Science.
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