A report in the journal Nature Scientific Reports demonstrates the potential of a new strategy in fighting infectious diseases in humans.
The paper, is entitled: “Adjusting the landscape of the human body to remove the mechanism that allows pathogens to cause disease”.
The previous common approaches were to target pathogens and parasites with medicines such as antibiotics and addressing the conditions that enable transmission to take place (preventing transmission).
The Researchers at the University of Virginia and University of Colorado silenced genes in human cells to discover if this would provide immunity to the parasite E.histolytica.
There is currently only one drug that is effective against this parasite – E. hystolytica – eventually it will develop resistance and there is no Plan B.
Thousands of tests later and they had cultivated a small number of cell cultures that were resistant to the parasite.
Further experimentation and testing enabled them to identify the specific genes that conferred resistance – these were ones that are involved in a process called potassium transport.
All of this, and follow-up experiments weith intestinal cells, showed that intestial cells infected with E. histolytica potassium flowed out from the cell, through the wall, just before it died. In order to confirm that blocking of the ability to transport potassium caused the resistance, the researchers blocked potassium efflux through the use of drugs.
The drugs did also enable the cells to be E. hystolytica resistant. Given that only one antibiotic that is effective against this parasite, this is a major breakthrough – against a disease that infects 50 million people and causes up to 110,000 deaths worldwide.