Protein may stop food poisoning bacteria

Campylobacter Infecting Human Cell

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University researchers have discovered a protein that could be key to stop most common human food poisoning bacteria in the U.S.

If you’ve eaten undercooked poultry or cross contaminated food while washing raw chicken, chances are it is the common bacteria campylobacter rather than salmonella.

A recent study published in Nature Communications found that a secreted protein known as CiaD helps the bacteria gain entry into the cell and takes control of important cell processes by changing the composition of proteins inside it.

Known for causing nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, once ingested, the bacteria secretes proteins that infiltrate cells lining the intestinal tract, allowing it to hide from the immune system.

The research helps the WSU team establish a foundation to understand why infections occur and persist.

Before the latest finding, it was largely unknown how the bacterium’s proteins functioned or infected the cells.

“We knew these things were happening, but we didn’t know how,” said Nick Negretti, a lead member of the WSU research team.  “Now, if we can stop this process, disease won’t happen.”

The bacteria accounts for 400 to 500 million cases of diarrhea annually, and is recognized by the World Health Organization as a serious threat due to its resistance to antibiotics. It has also been correlated with stunting growth among impoverished children.

Researchers are hopeful it will lead to real-world solutions, particularly how to prevent the pathogen from stunting growth in children.

The research was funded by a 5-year, $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.