Salmonella’s sweet tooth could see its downfall

Posted by Isobel Drake on 20th May 2009

For the first time UK scientists have shown what the food poisoning bug Salmonella feeds on to survive as it causes infection: glucose.

The discovery of the weakness for sugar could provide a new way to vaccinate against Salmonella. The discovery could also lead to vaccine strains to protect against other disease-causing bacteria, including superbugs, according to the Institute of Food Research (IFR).

“This is the first time that anyone has identified the nutrients that sustain Salmonella while it is infecting a host’s body,” Dr Arthur Thompson from the IFR advised.

The nutrition of bacteria during infection is an emerging science. This is one of the first major breakthroughs, achieved in collaboration with Dr. Gary Rowley at the University of East Anglia.

Salmonella concern
Salmonella food poisoning causes infection in around 20 million people worldwide each year and is responsible for about 200,000 human deaths. It also infects farm animals and attaches to salad vegetables.

The microbial contamination is one of the leading causes of food recalls around the world and was the cause of the three major recalls seen in the US in the past 12 months.

During infection, Salmonella bacteria are engulfed by immune cells designed to kill them. But instead the bacteria multiply.

Salmonella must acquire nutrients to replicate and scientists have now discovered that they are rendered harmless when they are no longer able to transport glucose. This could see the creation of vaccine strains or vaccine vectors to protect consumers from disease.