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Process Discovered to Undermine Bacterial Viral Salmonella Infection

Study results provide new understanding of how mammalian hosts defend against pathogenic organisms, as well as implications for better treating Salmonella

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Written by Kelsea Pieters on April 4, 2024

Researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have discovered a mechanism by which a bacterial virus undermines the virulence of Salmonella, allowing the host a chance to rehabilitate.

In a study published today in Science, researchers identify a new way by which a bacterial virus limits the capacity of Salmonella to cause infection. The terminase protein within the bacterial Gifsy-1 prophage, or virus, is normally involved in genomic processing of viral DNA. However, upon oxidative stress the terminase acquires the ability to break down transfer RNA (tRNA), ultimately compromising protein synthesis in Salmonella, a common cause of diarrhea in humans.

“We have discovered that a virus encoded in the Salmonella genome acts as the Achille’s heel of this common human pathogen,” says Andres Vazquez-Torres, PhD, professor of immunology and microbiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.  

“This basic research can possibly provide a basis for exploring ways to treat Salmonella infections in humans,” says Vazquez-Torres. “This new understanding can be exploited for our advantage – for example, we could benefit from the toxin produced by an endogenous virus to potentially treat patients with Salmonella infections that are resistant to antibiotics.”

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Andres Vazquez-Torres, PhD