A University of Alberta researcher is part of an international team that has discovered a naturally occurring micro-organism that directly targets a bacteria that causes a sometimes deadly intestinal disease in young children and the elderly.
John Vederas, a U of A chemistry researcher working with colleagues in Ireland, found that a strain of the common soil bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis, produces thuricin CD, a 1:1 mixture of two compounds (peptides) that kills the potentially deadly bacteria, Clostridium difficile. But unlike other antibacterial agents, thuricin CD does no harm to other bacteria in the human gut, which are necessary for a balanced state of health.
Clostridium difficile causes abdominal pain and diarrhea that can require hospitalization. Outbreaks of the disease can be deadly in long-term care facilities. Provincial health officials in Quebec listed a Clostridium difficile outbreak as the direct cause of death for more than 1,000 people between 2003 and 2004.
When a bacterial infection is treated with a broad spectrum antibiotic, it clears all the bacteria from the gut and Clostridium difficile can take quickly take hold.
Thuricin CD has shown promising results as a specific antibiotic treatment for Clostridium difficile in vitro and is now being tested in animals.
Vederas is co author of a paper on thuricin CD published this month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.