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Zinc as an active ingredient against bacterial diseases

Zinc as an active ingredient against bacterial diseases


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Antimicrobial effects of zinc have been demonstrated

An Australian research team opened up new details about the role of zinc in our immune system. The mineral apparently is suitable for the development of new non-antibiotic treatment strategies for bacterial diseases. In a recent study, the researchers were able to show that zinc combats pathogenic Escherichia coli bacterial strains - the main triggers of urinary tract infections.

Urinary tract infections are among the most common bacterial infections worldwide. In severe cases, they can jump on the kidneys and cause blood poisoning (sepsis). Australian researchers from the University of Queensland under the direction of Professor Matt Sweet, Professor Mark Schembri and Dr. Ronan Kapetanovic showed how our immune system uses the mineral zinc to fight bacteria. The study results were recently presented in the renowned journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)".

Our immune system uses zinc to fight bacteria

It was already known that zinc has a toxic effect on bacteria. What is new, however, is that our immune system takes advantage of this effect. "We have confirmed that cells in our immune system release zinc to eliminate bacterial infections," explains Dr. Kapetanovic in a press release on the study results. More precisely, zinc is used by the so-called macrophages. They belong to the white blood cells (leukocytes) and are part of our immune system.

Some bacteria avoid zinc

During the investigations, the researchers also recognized that some pathogenic bacteria are able to avoid zinc. "We found that some pathogenic E-Coli strains can avoid zinc toxicity," said the microbiologist. These bacteria also show increased resistance to the toxic effects of zinc. Here the team around Dr. Kapetanovic developed an approach to develop a new treatment strategy against bacterial diseases, for example by making the bacteria more susceptible to zinc or preventing an escape from zinc.

Zinc could replace antibiotics in places

"Treatment strategies that do not use antibiotics have the advantage that bacteria do not develop resistance," explains the expert. If the researchers succeed in strengthening the immune cells or changing the way they react to bacteria, the zinc could be used to fight resistant bacteria.

The first steps have already been taken

The research team was able to identify the entire genes of the coli bacteria that help protect against zinc. "This knowledge offers another potential path for the development of antimicrobial agents for the treatment of urinary tract infections," adds Dr. Duy Phan from the study team.

Not only effective against urinary tract infections

"Macrophages use zinc toxicity against various types of bacteria," reports PhD student Claudia Stocks. For example, zinc is also effective against salmonella, streptococci and tuberculosis. In further investigations, the team now wants to adapt special zinc sensors to different types of bacteria in order to better understand the immune system. The researchers aim to develop a whole range of new therapies for infectious diseases. (vb)

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Video: An Introduction to Infectious Diseases. Antibiotics: A Modern Miracle Lost? Part 624 (May 2022).