University of Queensland Lab Discovers New Way To Target Listeria
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), listeria infections are the third leading cause of death from foodborne illness in the United States today. It is estimated that about 1,600 people fall ill with listeria each year with 260 of those cases resulting in death. Listeria infection is known for posing a particular risk to expectant mothers and their babies, as well as the elderly and other people with weakened immune systems.
Since the woman’s immune system undergoes extreme changes during pregnancy, they are 10 times more likely to fall ill with listeria than other people. In addition, pregnant women who become infected with listeria can transmit it to their child in utero, which in turn, can lead to the miscarriage or premature delivery of the baby. For this reason, pregnant women are directed to either avoid altogether or take special precautions in preparing the foods which are common culprits of carrying listeria monocytogenes. For example, seafood, cheeses, meats, and certain vegetables require some specificity in the way in which they are prepared. For further information on what types of foods pregnant women should and should not eat, as well as preparation guidelines, visit the FoodsSafety.gov’s website.
Until now, research regarding listeria treatment has focused on the development of mutated versions of the bacteria’s ‘master regulator’. However, just recently, researchers at the University of Queensland discovered what they believe to be a new and effective way of treating listeria infection. According to Professor Blumenthal, in the process of their research, the Queensland team discovered that “the bacteria could be cleared with a small drug-like inhibitor that targets the master regulator” which produces the proteins necessary for the listeria to survive and multiply in the immune cells. Through the use of “molecular imaging and infections studies to better understand what happens to Listeria when the bacteria cannot effectively grow inside immune cells and hide from immune defense mechanisms”, the research team observed that this was a successful way to defeat the bacteria. Professor Blumenthal expressed his excitement at this discovery and his hope that it will allow for better treatment for listeriosis in the future, saying, “we hope that our discovery, together with recent research into the master proteins’ molecular structure and functions, could guide the development of inhibitors and new drugs to treat Listeria infection.”