Navigation Links
Scientists defuse the 'Vietnam time bomb'

A key mechanism by which a bacterial pathogen causes the deadly tropical disease melioidosis has been discovered by an international team of scientists.

The findings are published today in the journal Science and show how a toxin produced by the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei kills cells by preventing protein synthesis. The study, led by the University of Sheffield, paves the way for the development of novel therapies to combat the bacterium which infects millions of people across South East Asia and Northern Australia.

Using intense X-rays at Diamond Light Source, the UK's national synchrotron facility, and at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France, the research team solved the structure of a protein from Burkholderia, the function of which was initially unknown.

"The information gathered from the structure suggested that the protein was a previously unsuspected toxin and sparked a search for its mode of action. This eventually led to the discovery of how it prevents human cells from making proteins and helped us to understand how it causes cell death," says research lead Professor David Rice from the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Sheffield.

Melioidosis, along with HIV and tuberculosis, is one of the top three causes of death by infectious disease in parts of South East Asia and arises from infection by the bacterium which thrives in water and warm, moist soils and can enter the body through the lungs or through open wounds.

It causes either an acute form of the disease which presents immediately upon infection, or it can lay dormant in the body emerging many years, and often decades, later. In the acute form of the disease, even with a long course of treatment, mortality rates in endemic areas can be as high as 40 per cent. With a wide range of symptoms, melioidosis can be difficult to diagnose, hampering medical intervention.

"This disease is an everyday reality for many people living in the endemic areas and our findings will allow us to test if an inactivated toxin might be effective as a component of a vaccine," says Professor Rick Titball, a member of the team from the University of Exeter.

The delayed action of the bacteria has led to it being dubbed the 'Vietnam time bomb' following the recognition that many US military personnel who served in Vietnam have been infected. "Now that we know of the existence of this toxin it opens up opportunities for the development of novel drugs that could block its effects," says University of Sheffield Professor, Stuart Wilson.

The study involved a consortium of UK scientists from the University of Sheffield, the University of Exeter, Diamond Light Source and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down. European and international partners included: the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France; Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia; the Malaysia Genome Institute; DSO National Laboratories, Singapore, and the Genome Institute of Singapore.

Kevin van Cauter, HE Advisor with the British Council commented "We are thrilled that PMI2 funding supported this international collaboration and are excited by the potential impact of the work."

These groups now plan to seek funding to continue the work and investigate potential applications of the toxin to fight other diseases, such as cancer, where it might usefully be employed in targeted therapies to prevent the proliferation of cancer cells.

Contact: Clare Elsley
University of Sheffield

Related biology technology :

1. Scientists carve nanowires out of ultrananocrystalline diamond thin films
2. Berkeley Lab scientists develop new tool for the study of spatial patterns in living cells
3. Shaken, not stirred: Berkeley lab scientists spy molecular maneuvers
4. Using new technique, scientists uncover a delicate magnetic balance for superconductivity
5. Scientists create computing building blocks from bacteria and DNA
6. Scientists determine alternative insecticide dramatically reduces malaria transmission
7. Scientists take up golf to prove long-standing theory of cell stickiness
8. Sheffield scientists shine a light on the detection of bacterial infection
9. Scientists observe how superconducting nanowires lose resistance-free state
10. Controlling silicon evaporation allows scientists to boost graphene quality
11. Scientists utilize breath and sweat to detect trapped humans
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/24/2015)... Israel , Nov. 24, 2015  Tikcro Technologies Ltd. (OTCQB: TIKRF) ... on December 29, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. Israel ... Electra Tower, 98 Yigal Allon Street, 36 th Floor, ... of Eric Paneth and Izhak Tamir to the ... Rami Skaliter as external directors; , approval of an amendment to ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015  Twist Bioscience, ... that Emily Leproust, Ph.D., Twist Bioscience chief executive ... Healthcare Conference on December 1, 2015 at 3:10 ... in New York City. --> ... . Twist Bioscience is on Twitter. Sign ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... , ... InSphero AG, the leading supplier of easy-to-use solutions for production, culture, ... serve as Chief Operating Officer. , Having joined InSphero in November 2013 ... was promoted to Head of InSphero Diagnostics in 2014. There she has built ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Nov. 24, 2015 /CNW Telbec/ - ProMetic Life Sciences Inc. ... that Mr. Pierre Laurin , President and Chief Executive ... the upcoming Piper Jaffray 27 th Annual Healthcare Conference ... December 1-2, 2015. st , at 8.50am ... meetings throughout the day. The presentation will be available live ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015   MedNet Solutions ... the entire spectrum of clinical research, is pleased to ... High Tech Association (MHTA) as one of only three ... the "Software – Small and Growing" category. The Tekne Awards ... who have shown superior technology innovation and leadership. ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... 2015  Connected health pioneer, Joseph C. Kvedar ... technology-enabled health and wellness, and the business opportunities that ... The Internet of Healthy Things . Long before ... existed, Dr. Kvedar, vice president, Connected Health, Partners HealthCare, ... moving care from the hospital or doctor,s office into ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... October 27, 2015 Munich, ... Gaze Mapping technology (ASGM) automatically maps data from mobile ... Glasses , so that they can be quantitatively ... Munich, Germany , October 28-29, 2015. ... data from mobile eye tracking videos created with ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):