By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Food
San Francisco-based startup AvidBiotics says it can reverse the effects of an E. coli infection with a novel new protein -- no conventional antibiotic required.
Over the last half-decade, our arsenal of powerful bacteria-killing medicines has slowly (though in biological time, rapidly) been depleted as nature, through evolution, outwits our efforts to develop chemical tools that can save us from some of the world's most deadly diseases.
San Francisco-based startup AvidBiotics believes there's a better way to tackle the problem; one that doesn't include antibodies.
The company announced on Monday that it has developed a new antibacterial protein targeted against the O157:H7 strain of E. coli, demonstrating that food-borne bacterial infections can be fought without deploying a derivative of penicillin.
The protein, which is orally administered, can prevent or treat diarrhea and intestinal inflammation from this particular strain of E. coli, regardless of whether it's taken as a preventative measure or immediately after the onset of symptoms.
The O157:H7 strain of E. coli often goes hand in hand with the contamination of processed foods, from ground meat to unwashed greens. Periodic outbreaks keep the agriculture industry on edge.
While the new protein won't do anything to force farmers and food processors to adopt better practices, it can help E. coli -- this strain, at least; for more on others, see the comments below -- from becoming fatal. Today's antibiotics cause E. coli to produce harmful toxins; meanwhile, anti-diarrheal medication encourages the E. coli bacteria to remain in the intestines.
The AvidBiotics researchers -- in conjunction with the Brigham and Women's Hospital/Harvard Medical School -- say that their "Avidocin" protein remained active in the intestinal tract of test rabbits for at least 24 hours after administration, preventing E. coli colonization and symptoms, such as diarrhea and intestinal inflammation. Moreover, there was a "greatly reduced" number of E. coli bacteria in the animals' stool.
That's good news, as the protein could help mitigate the effects of an outbreak, whether for food safety or biodefense purposes.
Their research was published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.
Nov 20, 2011
What is being done about phage R&D ? Phages are much more specific,faster and cheaper to develope with virtually no side effects.
This is a start in the right direction, one of the problems with people who have bladder removal is that the stoma can be a site of e-coli infection. The surgeon uses a piece of the intestine to create the stoma. If they can create a treatment for a specific e-coli then maybe they can get a handle on this particular problem. As it is the patient is on constant antibiotics for the chronic infection.
Why don't [i]you[/i] write the article, ddugger??? From your handle, I would think this to be right in your wheelhouse, no? Stop complaining and actually [i]do[/i] something about it. You're "spot on" regarding what needs to be done. The very same questions came to me, and who better to research it than someone from the industry? Inform us the way that a scientist would do so.
The good news is that this protein is effective against O157:H7 strain of E. coli. The bad news is that this protein is effective against O157:H7 strain of E. coli - because there are many, many, strains of E. coli. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be the necessary information in the press release, or Mr. Nusca's article regarding the specificity of this protein and as such it's difficult to determine just how important this "news" might be - beyond the O157:H7 strain of E. coli. So, the question begged - is just how broad of effect does this protein have within the various strains of E. coli? This is exactly the kind of obvious journalistic deficit problem we were discussing in your call last week, Andrew - remember? You really need to get beyond just recycling technology press releases, if you want to be more than a basic info utility.
The company's work is, so far, within the narrow range of this specific strain of E. coli, and the protein mentioned in this article was designed to address this specific strain. To make it 100 percent clear, I will add this to the post above. The news is less significant because this protein can prevent 2,100 hospitalizations in the U.S. each year and more significant because the fine-tuned technique to make it happen is an alternative to the development of conventional, wide-blast antibiotics. The company's Avidocin proteins are "highly specific for their bacterial targets and can be engineered to target any bacterial species or strain," it says. So the question seems less of whether this specific protein can address other strains of E. coli, but rather whether the company can work fast enough to develop distinct proteins for the more than 700 strains of E. coli -- plus any other bacterial disease that vexes us.