JUL 07, 2018 01:40 PM PDT

A New Target for an Effective Gonorrhea Treatment

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

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
SEP 22, 2018
Videos
SEP 22, 2018
Did a Vampire Facial Expose Patients to Bloodborne Disease?
It seems there is no shortage of unusual beauty rituals; vampire facials may fall into that category....
OCT 22, 2018
Videos
OCT 22, 2018
How Many Bacteria are There in the World?
Researchers once thought that there were only a few thousand bacterial species on the planet - a gross underestimation....
NOV 14, 2018
Microbiology
NOV 14, 2018
Rare Atacama Rainfall Events Devastate Microbial Life
Northern Chile is home to the driest desert on Earth, the Atacama Desert....
NOV 26, 2018
Health & Medicine
NOV 26, 2018
The Fight Bite
  Human bite wounds are a common source of polymicrobial infections accounting for many emergency room visits. One bacteria, Eikenella corrodens, ...
NOV 25, 2018
Drug Discovery
NOV 25, 2018
Advancing Drug Therapies for an Increasing Case of a Parasitic infection Among Displaced Syrians
Cases of Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL), a parasitic disease, has increased dramatically in Syria and neighboring countries as a result of the conflict-relat...
DEC 06, 2018
Videos
DEC 06, 2018
Stopping the Spread of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria
This informative video from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines the problem of antibiotic resistance....
Loading Comments...