Gastrointestinal Infections

Pathoblocker development

Scientists search for virulence factor inhibitors that target gastrointestinal pathogens such as EHEC, Salmonella and Helicobacter pylori.

Pathoblockers are agents that specifically inhibit pathogenic properties of microorganisms. For example, they can prevent pathogens from penetrating the intestinal wall or prevent damaging effects from their toxins. The advantage of such agents is that while standard antibiotics damage both the pathogen and the natural gut flora, these agents leave the gut flora intact and specifically target the pathogen only. Furthermore, pathoblockers do not promote antibiotic resistance.

Blockage instead of destruction

Antibiotic-resistant salmonella

© cdc_James Archer

DZIF scientists specifically look for inhibitors that target different pathogenic features in gastrointestinal pathogens such as EHEC, Salmonella and Helicobacter pylori. Consequently, they have established a research platform that systematically examines multiple libraries in search of such substances. A potential target structure that is common to many bacteria is the so-called type III secretion system, which Salmonella, for example, use to inject destructive toxins into the host cell by means of needle-like structures.

Preventing or restricting the motility of bacteria is another avenue of attack: The therapeutic principle of motility inhibitors is based on the inhibition of the motility mediated by flagella—hair-like appendages found on various bacterial species that propel and manoeuver the cells and contribute to their pathogenicity. DZIF researchers have already been able to identify substances that could inhibit the motility of H. pylori as part of a new antibacterial therapy and thus prevent the bacterium's proliferation and pathogenic activity.

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