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News tools to combat enteric disease discovered

Scientists at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine have identified the bacterial protein VpsT as the master regulator in Vibrio. It is the cause of cholera and other enteric diseases. This discovery, published in the journal 'Science', provides a major tool to combat enteric disease.

A.R. | 12 February 2010

For decades, it has been observed that bacteria engage in biofilm formation in nature and the lab. Like the online social network Facebook, free-swimming bacteria ditch the solitary lifestyle to form a biofilm community, but only after they've signalled their intention to do so to others. The protein VpsT receives the invitation and accepts it by starting a cellular program facilitating the process. "We have the parts list now," said Holger Sondermann, professor at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine. "The next step will be to develop a clear understanding of the triggers and processes that regulate biofilm formation. With this data, we can find opportunities to disrupt the process and find entry points for therapeutic interventions."

Thus, bacteria hunker down with millions of other bacteria to form a biofilm community powerful enough to fog your contacts, rot your teeth, corrode metal and cause a host of human and animal diseases. Biofilms have been implicated in numerous chronic infections including cystic fibrosis, otitis media and prostatitis. Through interactions within a biofilm, the resident population of bacteria is likely to benefit from increased metabolic efficiency, substrate accessibility, enhanced resistance to environmental stress and antibiotics and an increased ability to cause infection and disease, says Sondermann.

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