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Research: Role of nutrient may reveal dietary target in fight against microbial infections

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Washington | November 10, 2022 2:00:36 AM IST
According to a recent Yale study, a vitamin that is frequently found in human diets has been found to support the survival of a bacterium that causes cancer. The results could point to a crucial target for brand-new medications to combat a variety of viral diseases that affect humans.

Ergothioneine, or EGT, a vitamin and well-known antioxidant, was discovered to shield bacteria from oxidative stress, a characteristic of many infectious diseases and the result of an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body.

When immune cells create oxygen-containing free radicals to fight dangerous microorganisms, oxidative stress results. Antioxidant defences are essential for bacteria in these conditions.

The precise chemicals that some bacteria utilise to protect themselves from free radicals in our bodies are still a mystery, despite decades of research.

The latest findings, which were released in the journal Cell, provide crucial hints.

The EGT nutrient, which is prevalent in foods like mushrooms, beans, and grains, was discovered by researchers at the Yale Microbial Sciences Institute to be consumed by bacteria to help ensure their survival. The nutrient was utilised by the gastric cancer-causing bacteria Helicobacter pylori to successfully compete for survival in host tissues.

While similar studies have looked at the field of genetics, the Yale scientists detected bacterial EGT uptake using mass spectrometry and a novel technique they call "reactivity-guided metabolomics" -- which harnesses the unique chemistry of specific classes of molecules to identify them in complex biological settings.

"We were excited to discover an unconventional mechanism that enables bacteria to withstand oxidative stress during infection," said Stavroula Hatzios, an assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology and of chemistry in Yale's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and senior author of the study.

"Because the protein that bacteria use to take up EGT operates in a manner distinct from that of its counterpart in human cells, we are optimistic that a specific drug could be developed to inhibit microbial uptake of this nutrient," she added.

EGT from food is also absorbed by human cells. EGT is well known for having anti-inflammatory effects in humans and is frequently linked to the prevention of disease.

The fact that decreased levels of EGT are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular, autoimmune, and neurological diseases suggests that bacterial consumption of this nutrient may have significant effects on human health. (ANI)

 
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