Scientists at the institute have shown for the first time that salmonella relies on glucose for its survival; raising the possibility of vaccine protection against this food-borne illness and other disease-causing bacteria, including super bugs.
“This is the first time that anyone has identified the nutrients that sustain Salmonella while it is infecting a host’s body,” said Dr Arthur Thompson, IFR group leader. “Our experiments showed that glucose is the major sugar used by Salmonella during infection,” said Dr Thompson.
A statement from the institute added that: “The nutrition of bacteria during infection is an emerging science. This is one of the first major breakthroughs, achieved in collaboration with Dr. Gary Rowley at the University of East Anglia.”
The research focused on glycolysis; the process by which sugars are broken down to create chemical energy. It occurs in most organisms including bacteria that occupy host cells. Disrupting bacteria’s ability to use glucose could be used to create vaccine strains for other pathogenic bacteria, including superbugs.
Scientists constructed Salmonella mutants that were unable to move glucose into the immune cells they occupy and so were unable to use glucose as food. These mutant strains lost their ability to replicate harmless while still stimulating the host’s immune system.
Patents have been filed on the mutant strains which could be used to develop vaccines to protect people and animals against salmonella poisoning.
Scientists believe the harmless strains could also be used as vaccine vectors. The flu gene, for example, could be expressed within the harmless Salmonella strain and safely delivered to the immune system.
The next phase of the research will focus on whether mutant strains prompt a protective immune response in mice.
Salmonella food poisoning affects about 20m people worldwide each year and causes around 200,000 deaths. It also infects farm animals.
The IFR is an institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
Salmonella was the European Union’s most common cause of food-borne illness in 2007, according to the latest report from the European Food Safety Authority and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Food-borne viruses and Campylobacter were the second and third most common forms of illness identified in their joint Community Summary Report on Food-borne Outbreaks in the EU in 2007.