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Researchers make breakthrough on sexually transmitted bacterium

Scientists have discovered the mechanism by which a bacterium adheres to human cells, which is essential for the onset of bacterial infection and disease development.

The researchers from the Molecular Biology Institute of Barcelona (IBMB) and the Institute of Biotechnology and Biomedicine (IBB) studied the bacterium mycoplasma genitalium (Mgen) and how it adheres to human cells.

They found the mechanism by which it interacts with cells, which the researchers hope will lead to new treatments to fight the infection.

IBMI researcher and first author of the study, David Aparicio, said: “We made a protein crystal of the P110 adhesin bound to aialic acids and used X-rays to determine the exact position of the atoms within the protein, and we were able to decipher the three-dimensional structure.”

Mgen infections are as frequent as gonorrhoea infections, according to the study, which is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases.

The bacterium is sexually transmitted and causes urethritis and cervicitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, premature birth and spontaneous abortions. It is also becoming resistant to antibiotics.

IBB researcher Oscar Quijada said: “On the one hand, we have obtained key information on the process of colonization – that is, how the pathogen comes into contact with the host cells. On the other hand, it allows us to develop alternative drugs capable of blocking Mgen’s cell adhesion, such as molecules mimicking the human cell receptors, or stimulating the formulations of antibodies which can inhibit the function of these adhesins.”

Researchers said finding alternative ways of treating Mgen were of the “utmost importance” given its resistance to antibiotics.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, has led to an international patent application and a new study that aims to fight the emergence of new resistances.

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