SCIENTISTS have made a discovery that could lead to a vaccine against the tropical disease melioidosis.
The findings published in the journal Science show how a toxin produced by the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei damages cells in a wide range of tissues in infected people, causing sepsis and chronic disease.
The study led by researchers at the University of Sheffield, UK, and involving an international consortium from Europe and Asia, could lead to the creation of new therapies to combat the bacterium, which is endemic across
northern Australia and in South-East Asia.
“Now that we know of the existence of this toxin, it opens up opportunities for the development of novel drugs that could block its effects,” researcher Professor Stuart Wilson said.
The team plans to seek funding to investigate potential applications of the bacterial toxin to fight other disease such as cancer, where it might find use in targeted therapies to prevent the proliferation of cancer cells.
Melioidosis has been referred to as the “Vietnam time bomb”, with many US military personnel becoming infected during their service in Vietnam.
The illness can lay dormant in the body for decades, health officials said.
B. pseudomallei thrives in water and in warm, moist soils and can enter the body through the lungs or through open wounds.
Science 2011; online 11 Novembe
- Scientists defuse the ‘Vietnam time bomb’ (eurekalert.org)
- Fuse of ‘Vietnamese Time Bomb’ Identified (news.sciencemag.org)
- Scientists find mechanism that leads to drug resistance in bacteria causing melioidosis (eurekalert.org)