London: Scientists say they have taken an important stride in understanding exactly how cholera attacks the human body.
A team at York University says the development could someday pave the way for development of new treatments for the globally significant intestinal disease which kills more than 100,000 people every year.
Cholera is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, which is able to colonise the intestine usually after consumption of contaminated water or food. Once infection is established, the bacterium secretes a toxin that causes watery diarrhea and ultimately death if not treated rapidly.
In the research, the scientists, led by Gavin Thomas, investigated one of the important routes that V cholera uses to gain this foothold. To be able to grow in the intestine thebacterium harvests and then eats a sugar, called sialic acid, that is present on the surface of our gut cells.
The research demonstrates that the pathogen uses a particular kind of transporter called a TRAP transporter to recognise sialic acid and take it up into the cell. The transporter has particular properties that are suited to scavenging the small amount of available sialic acid.
"This work continues our discoveries of how bacteria that grow in our body exploit sialic acid for their survival and help us to take forward our efforts to design chemicals to inhibit these processes in different bacterial pathogens," Thomas said in a release by the university.