Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Next Step in the Fight Against Infective Endocarditis

News Brief by Rohan Rao

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University have taken a monumental step forward in the fight between human and bacteria. A study conducted at the VCU Philips Institute for Oral Health Research determined that a particular bacterium, Streptococcus sanguinis, which is responsible for infective endocarditis, has a vital dependence on manganese to survive and function. Infective endocarditis, a disease afflicting the heart valves, is difficult for doctors to treat and can be fatal, resulting in death for more than 20 percent of patients who contract the disease. These scientists showed in their study that one of the crucial enzymes the bacterium requires for DNA synthesis relies on manganese to maintain its function. By genetically knocking out this particular enzyme as well as the enzyme that attaches manganese to the former enzyme, the bacterium loses its capability to cause disease.

It is agreed upon in the field that the most effective antibiotics are able to attack aspects of bacteria that are necessary for its survival and will not negatively influence humans. Luckily, an antibiotic that would attack the manganese-requiring enzyme meets both requirements, as it is certain that manganese is necessary for the bacterium’s survival and humans have a different mechanism for DNA synthesis, so there are assumed to be no adverse effects. Moving forward, there is still much research to be done in the way of developing antibiotics; however, the vast importance of this breakthrough is unequivocal and has the potential to save many lives.

Virginia Commonwealth University. (2014, March 5). Key enzyme found in disease-causing bacteria responsible for heart valve disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 19, 2014 from
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