JUL 07, 2018 01:40 PM PDT

A New Target for an Effective Gonorrhea Treatment

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch
1 8 205

Many pathogenic microbes are gaining resistance to antibiotics, and the bacterium that causes the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, is no different. The recent rise of drug-resistant gonorrhea has caused some alarm, and the pathogen has been labeled a superbug; it cannot be treated with any class of available antibiotics. Now, researchers at OSU/OHSU College of Pharmacy and collaborators have identified a protein that underlies the microbe’s virulence, which may help develop new ways to treat the disease.

Globally, there are an estimated 78 million new cases of gonorrhea every year. The disease can cause ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, epididymitis, and infertility. The risk of blindness is increased in babies born to infected mothers, who may not know they have the disease.

Related: Untreatable Cases of Gonorrhea are on the Rise

"The infections very often are silent," explained Oregon State University researcher Aleksandra Sikora. "Up to 50 percent of infected women don't have symptoms, but those asymptomatic cases can still lead to some very severe consequences for the patient's reproductive health, miscarriage or premature delivery."

Sikora led a research team along with the lab of Ann Jerse at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland; they found a new kind of protein that aids in the transport of fats, a lipoprotein, which is utilized by N. gonorrhoeae to evade the defensive powers of our immune system.
 
Special enzymes in the body, lysozymes, can break up fatty molecules called lipids that compose cell walls. That process is used to disrupt the walls of bacteria, killing them. The cells that make up protective barriers of our body, like skin or tissues surrounding organs, are loaded with lysozymes that can help keep foreign material out.

For pathogens, that’s meant finding a way around those lysozymes. Many bacteria have developed an outer membrane, thwarting lysozymes. 

This work revealed a new protein that inhibits them. It is only the second time a protein that acts against lysozyme has been found in the Neisseria genus. The protein was named SliC, short for surface-exposed lysozyme inhibitor of c-type lysozyme. The researchers confirmed the role of the protein in bacterial growth by using a mouse model.

This new target has created new candidates for engineering a vaccine or drug. Interfering with this lysozyme inhibitor could make the bacterium vulnerable to drugs and may reign in its ability to cause infection.

"This is the first time an animal model has been used to demonstrate a lysozyme inhibitor's role in gonorrhea infection," Sikora noted. "Together, all of our experiments show how important the lysozyme inhibitor is. This is very exciting."

 

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via Oregon State University, PLOS Pathogens

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAY 22, 2018
Microbiology
MAY 22, 2018
Deadly Bacterium can Hijack Neurons
Strep throat is caused by a common bacterium called Streptococcus pyogenes. That bacterium can also cause flesh-eating disease.
JUN 14, 2018
Microbiology
JUN 14, 2018
The Rise of Carbapenem Resistance
European scientists are warning clinicians about a dangerous group of microbes that resist the effects of drugs used as a last resort.
JUL 01, 2018
Microbiology
JUL 01, 2018
Using Bacteria to Help Power Space Missions
There are microbes that have found a way to use electricity for power, and scientists want to see how they can help us.
JUL 16, 2018
Microbiology
JUL 16, 2018
Cyclospora to Blame for Several Foodborne Outbreaks
One outbreak of cyclosporiasis, which is caused by a parasite, has been traced back to salads sold at McDonald's, mostly in the Midwest.
JUL 24, 2018
Microbiology
JUL 24, 2018
Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Raw Turkey Products
Researchers at the CDC are trying to learn more about a rash of Salmonella infections.
AUG 13, 2018
Microbiology
AUG 13, 2018
Insight Into the Origins of Junk DNA - From Koalas
The human genome isn't only genes. There's also long, repetitive sequences with an unknown function and origin.
Loading Comments...