New Ways to Fight E. Coli Infection

E. coli may be possible with preventative spray

(RxWiki News) Now that the deadly E. coli outbreak in Germany is winding down, attention is being turned to prevention. One expert has decided to focus on ways to thwart E. coli poisoning.

Debora Foster, a chemistry and biology professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, discovered a small protein that may be effective in preventing certain strains of the bacteria.

Washing your fruits and vegetables thoroughly could prevent E. coli.

Foster and a team from the University of Southern California and San Diego State University are researching an antimicrobial agent that could be used to develop a spray for fruits and vegetables that are at risk for contamination with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. The same strain sickened more than 4,000 in Germany late last May.

Foster said the team is investigating an antimicrobial peptide capable of interfering with the DNA repair mechanisms that allow the E. coli bacterium to survive exposure to gastric acid. She noted that the body's natural defense mechanism is the killing the action of stomach acid. The spray would enhance that killing action.

Foster said that even a brief five-minute treatment with the peptide profoundly impaired the ability of several different strains of E. coli to survive exposure to acid similar to that found in the human stomach.

This research was funded by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant, a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases grant and two postdoctoral fellowships, one funded by NSERC and one funded by Ryerson University.

The research has been published in the July 2011 issue of Nature Medicine.

Review Date: 
July 8, 2011