NOV 05, 2018 11:00 AM PST

Potential Antidote to Botulism is Found

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

A microbe called Clostridium botulinum and sometimes two other strains of Clostridium bacteria can make a toxic chemical called botulism. Those bacteria are not uncommon, but it is rare for a person to get sick with botulism. No antidote to the toxin has ever been approved by the FDA, however, so it is considered to have potential as a bioweapon. New research may change that; scientists have reported in Applied and Environmental Microbiology that they discovered a chemical that acts as a powerful inhibitor of botulism, and can reduce the paralysis it causes.

The scientists began by looking for an enzyme that enables the botulinum neurotoxin to damage neurons and cause paralysis. Next, they screened a library of over 300 natural compounds that were derived from Indian medicinal plants. They were searching for an enzyme that could act against the activity that disrupts neurons. They were able to find an inhibiting compound called nitrophenyl psoralen (NPP). 

"Using high throughput screening, we identified one of the compounds, nitrophenyl psoralen, as having particularly strong activity against the neuron-damaging enzyme," said corresponding author Bal Ram Singh, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Botulinum Research Center, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA.

In the laboratory, the researchers assessed the activity of NPP in vitro and in their cell culture models. They tested it on the most potent of the seven serotypes of botulinum toxin and determined that NPP type A exhibited strong anti-botulinum toxin action, without having a detrimental effect on human cells.

"NPP also showed activity to reverse the mouse muscle paralysis induced by botulinum neurotoxin type A," added Dr. Singh.

While only around 200 cases of botulism are recorded every year, "these cost more to treat than the millions of salmonella outbreaks that occur, making botulism the most expensive form of food poisoning," noted Dr. Singh. Clostridium botulinum microbes, which produce the toxin, are prevalent in soil bacterium and are difficult to kill, even living through getting boiled.

Food poisoning in the most typical way that people become sickened by the toxin, but it can also infect wounds and get into the gastrointestinal tracts of children.

Dr. Singh added that NPP might be able to quickly gain FDA approval because psoralen-derived drugs have already gotten that approval.

Natural products are an interest for Dr. Singh, who has been researching herbs in the Ayurveda medicinal practice. These herbs may sometimes have fewer side effects and less toxicity than synthetic drugs.


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via American Society for Microbiology, Applied and Environmental Microbiology

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
NOV 05, 2018
Drug Discovery
NOV 05, 2018
Anti-Parasitic Drug Improves Long-term Clinical Outcomes in Chagas Disease
In a recent study published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, an anti-parasite drug by the name of ‘benznidazole’ may hold potential in impr...
NOV 26, 2018
Health & Medicine
NOV 26, 2018
Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Infections in Tattoos
Contracting an infection when getting a tattoo is always a major concern. Consumers should be aware of the risk of developing infections with bloodborne pa...
DEC 21, 2018
Microbiology
DEC 21, 2018
How the Gut Microbiome Controls the Intestinal Immune System
The gut microbiome has many important functions, including helping us digest food. But it has to protect itself from the immune system....
DEC 23, 2018
Videos
DEC 23, 2018
'Miracle Baby' Survives Ebola
An ongoing outbreak of Ebola virus disease has caused a reported 560 likely cases of the disease (512 have been confirmed), with 336 dead so far....
JAN 10, 2019
Health & Medicine
JAN 10, 2019
Skin with hair or without hair
study identified that the endogenous secreted Wnt inhibitor DKK2 suppresses the hair follicle development...
JAN 04, 2019
Microbiology
JAN 04, 2019
Greenland Ice Sheet Found to Release Tons of Methane
Methane is a greenhouse gas considered to be 20-28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide....
Loading Comments...