Researcher Solves 'Sticky' Bacterial Problem

While medicine has treated bacterial infections in one of two ways either killing the tiny organisms or slowing down their growth doctors may soon have yet another weapon in the fight against pathogenic bacteria.

In her lab at Mount Holyoke College, biochemistry professor Megan Núñez has discovered a way to reduce the stickiness of a lab-safe strain of the E. coli bacterium by impairing its pili, which are the hairlike appendages that enable the microorganism to attach itself to surfaces and other cells.

It is a breakthrough that can vastly improve the way we deal with bacterial biofilms, which are communities of bacteria that grow on surfaces like teeth, industrial workspaces, and food and can be hard to remove. In the case of bacteria that cause disease, Núñezs finding may also affect the development of drugs that undermine the pathogenic bacterias way of making a foothold in the body.

In the case of these bacteria, they have to grab on to the human cells around them in order for them to not get flushed out of the body, Núñez said. So if you inhibit their ability to adhere, then your immune system is able to get rid of them, and you dont have to have antibiotics at all, or the antibiotics might work better.

Source: Mount Holyoke College