Deciphering Salmonella’s Battle Plan

Researchers at the U.K.’s Institute of Food Research (IFR) have discovered more about how Salmonella fuels itself to invade human gut epithelial cells—its first line of infection—once it’s in the body.

Arthur Thompson, PhD, a research leader at IFR who has devoted much of his research to Salmonella, developed strains of S. Typhimurium (one of the more common sources of Salmonella infection) that lack certain key genes in important metabolic pathways. By studying how well these mutated strains reproduced in cultured human epithelial cells, he and his colleagues identified glucose as the major nutrient used to fuel the bacterium’s growth and reproduction.

But glucose isn’t the only factor. When they knocked out enzymes used to transport glucose, it severely reduced S. Typhimurium’s ability to reproduce in epithelial cells, but didn’t eradicate it completely. “This suggests that although S. Typhimurium requires glucose, it is also able to use other nutrients, and that’s something we’re now studying,” said Dr. Thompson.

Dr. Thompson and his team have already filed an international patent based on the use of Salmonella metabolic mutants as potential live attenuated vaccine strains. “They are highly attenuated within host cells,” he notes. “We are still investigating whether it would be possible to use metabolic information as prevention strategies for foods, as well as whether dietary supplementation could help reduce or prevent illness once exposure has occurred.”

The research was published in PLOS One.



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