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TIGRA SCIENTIFICA: Ironing out infection

Photo courtesy of
Tigra 2-20-17

Different schools, camps, and trips often ask us to provide medical history to prove that we have received the correct vaccinations. That list has always consisted of similar vaccine requirements, but what if I told you the number of vaccines may increase in coming years due to new research?
Bacteria that cause infection survive and grow by stealing iron from your body, but new studies show that this method of survival may also be a target in the prevention of such infections.
Iron plays an important role in the human body and supports processes, such as energy production and DNA replication. Because bacteria need this metal to survive, they have special molecules called siderophores that pull the iron out of the host’s proteins. Then, binding to a bacteria-specific receptor, the siderophores transport this important element back to the bacterial cell.
Scientists have tried to repress this process to make a vaccine that works against the receptors; however, the receptors’ hydrophobic and insoluble properties have made it difficult.
Based on new findings published in Science magazine, two research groups, led by Dr. Harry Mobley at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Dr. Manuela Raffatellu at the University of California, Irvine, have been synthesizing a new vaccine to prevent infection by attacking the siderophores instead.
Siderophores are very small in nature, so the two research groups hooked synthesized versions of the molecule to a type of carrier protein that is bigger and would be seen as “foreign” to the immune system.
To study this new conjugate of the siderophore and the protein, the team at the University of Michigan injected mice with a specified version targeting a urinary tract infection, then injected the mice with E. coli to cause the infection. The group at the University of California, Irvine did the same, but with an injection containing a specified version targeting food poisoning, followed by a Salmonella injection.
The two research groups discovered that the injections of the synthesized conjugate did not prevent the disease, but they were effective. The number of bacteria in the mice that had received the injection with the conjugate was remarkably lower than the number of bacteria in the mice only injected with the carrier protein.
This new technology isn’t ready to be tested on humans yet; however, the first few experiments and studies have shown promising results. Not only could future vaccines prevent infection in humans, but one injection could combat a multitude of infections caused by bacteria that produce chemically similar siderophores.
Dr. Mobley believes that the vaccines may be safe enough to be tested on humans in about five years. These new strides in vaccinations may be preliminary, but in coming years, Clemson University may be adding some new siderophore-targeting vaccines to the medical requirements for enrollment.

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