A team at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, has found a way to disable one sensor of Campylobacter jejuni, that stops it from being able to attach to its host and therefore cause gastroenteritis.
“We conducted the study in chickens by disabling this particular sensor (CcrG) and we found that it does reduce the level of colonisation,” she said.
“We found this sensor (CcrG) does not occur in all strains of this bacteria, only in about 10 or 11 per cent, but those strains tend to be those isolated from really sick people such as those that have meningitis as a consequence of gastro.”
Professor Korolik described the sensor as a type of “hand” that grabbed onto a specific molecule within the stomach of its host that could lead the bacteria to cells from which to colonise and cause gastroenteritis.
“This sensor grabs a molecule, it grabs it and holds it like you would a ball in your hand and that molecule tells the bacteria they are on the right track and moving towards the right cell,” she said.
“They also have a part that goes inside the cell and sends a signal – to go forward or turn around depending on what is happening.
“Because it can find the human cells efficiently and quickly, it can attack and cause disease.”
Professor Korolik said an antimicrobial drug that acted as a synthetic “ball” could block the sensor and prevent it from finding the cell.
“If you block the hand part of the receptor, the signal is stuck and the bacteria goes around in circle and can’t find its target,” she said.
“If we can design a ‘ball’ that is a better fit than the natural one then we can block the receptor – if the bacteria can’t find its direction because it doesn’t know what else is on the environment because it is blocked and it goes around and around and is eventually passed out.”
Professor Korolik said every bacteria has a variety of sensory structures that are separate from each other which allows one sensor of one bacteria to be targetted without impacting on existing gut flora.
Campylobacter jejuni bacteria is the most common cause of food poisoning in Australia and hospitalised more than 3200 people in 2014, according to Queensland Health.
More than 500 cases have been reported in Queensland in the past month, with the gastrointestinal disease impacting 16,436 across Australia this year so far, according to the national department of health.