RML’s Discovery of ‘Swimming’ Salmonella Protein Provides Potential for Future Antibacterial Treatments
Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) is a part of the National Institute of Health (NIH) research program, located in Hamilton, Montana. RML’s research program investigates the transmission and functional properties of a wide variety of viral and bacterial illnesses. In a recent study, one RML researcher, Kendal Cooper, discovered an important component in the process of Salmonella infection; the protein McpC.
Cooper was first hired 20 years ago by RML’s research manager, Olivia Steele-Mortime, specifically to research Salmonella infection. Salmonella is a common foodborne bacteria, meaning that it is transmitted via contaminated food and drink. Salmonella infection, known as Salmonellosis, causes inflammation of the intestinal lining, causing symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, and a low-grade fever. For most healthy individuals, symptoms only persist for 4 to 7 days, however, more severe onset of Salmonellosis can occur in infants, persons 65 years of age or older, as well as in persons with otherwise compromised immune systems. Although severe onset of Salmonella infection is relatively rare, the CDC publishes that 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths each year in the US are accounted for by Salmonellosis.
Cooper and her team’s research primarily focuses on Salmonella Typhimurium, one of the most common strains of Salmonella to cause foodborne illness in the US today. Salmonella Typhimurium is known to travel through the gut through a ‘run and tumble’ sort of fashion before invading the epithelial cells of the intestinal lining. However, researchers have never understood the exact method by which Salmonella Typhimurium invades the cell wall, as it often randomly changes directions. As Steele-Mortimer explains, bacteria “get pushed around by so many things in their environment. It’s really hard for them to swim. They have to expend a lot of energy doing that”. In a recent study, Cooper and her team discovered that Salmonella has the capacity to manufacture a protein known as McpC which enables the bacteria to swim in a straight line, target, and invade the intestinal lining.
Cooper and her team are confident that this discovery may lead to the development of antibacterial treatments which can inhibit McpC production and consequently, decrease the number and severity of Salmonellosis cases in the US.