Crop Biotech Update

Deadly Bacteria May Mimic Human Proteins to Evolve Antibiotic Resistance

June 10, 2011

Deadly bacteria may be evolving antibiotic resistance by imitating human proteins, according to a study conducted by Translational Genomics Research Institute. This process is called molecular mimicry. "This mimicry allows the bacteria to evade its host's defense responses, side-stepping our immune system," said Dr. Mia Champion, an Assistant Professor in TGen's Pathogen Genomics Division, and the study's author.

Through genomic sequencing, Champion and colleagues studied a number of methyltransferase protein families that are very similar in otherwise very distantly related human bacterial pathogens. These proteins also were found in hosts such as humans, mouse, and rat. Researchers found methyltransferase in the pathogen Francisella tularensis subspecies tularensis, the most virulent form of Francisella. Just one cell can be lethal, if not treated.

According to the researchers, "the evolution of pathogenic bacterial species from nonpathogenic ancestors is marked by relatively small changes in the overall gene content." Results of such studies could help develop molecular targets in developing new drug treatments.

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