Cell walls can bock infections

17 January 2012

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Category: Research & medical benefits

parasite–leishmaniasis.jpgScientists have developed a new strategy for fighting infectious diseases. By blocking the entry of a parasite into the blood cells of mice, they have been able to prevent infection and the resulting disease. This new approach could help stop the rise of drug-resistant 'superbugs' by targeting the body’s own cells rather than the bug itself.

Traditional treatments for infections aim to kill the invading pathogen. However, mutations can sometimes allow the bug to evolve and become resistant to the treatment. In a series of experiments, researchers targeted the mechanism through which some pathogens enter white blood cells of the host, and successfully blocked entry into the cell where it can cause damage and disease. Targeting the body’s own cells should make it less likely that the pathogen to mutate and develop resistance.

Through testing a wide range of compounds, which they hoped would block enzymes involved in the cell entry pathway, the researchers identified AS-605240. Using cell cultures of mouse white blood cells, they showed that the experimental compound reduced the ability of the parasite Leishmania mexicana to invade the cells.

They then compared AS-605240 treatment of Leishmania infection in mice with the current standard treatment, sodium stibogluconate. After two weeks of treatment the effects of both strategies were very similar, both effectively reducing the number of infected blood cells. When the treatments were combined, the healing effects were stronger than they were in mice that received just one type of treatment.

These were 'proof of concept' experiments, to show that the strategy of preventing host cell invasion, rather than killing pathogens, is effective in preventing disease. Scientists can now work on developing medicines that use this strategy to treat a range of diseases.

For more information on research into leishmaniasis, please see the animalresearch.info page