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Friday 28th October 2016

Venomous clues found in lung battle

8th September 2008

According to new research, bacteria-produced toxins similar to a chemical found in snake venom attack the lungs of people who have cystic fibrosis.


The Pseudomonas bacteria exists in "biofilm communities" in the lungs and is difficult to treat with medication.

Biofilms are produced when bateria joins together in the body and exists in a "semi-dormant state". This can cause chronic health issues and in cystic fibrosis patients causes the Pseudonomas infection in lung mucus.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge found a number of damaging "virulence factors" produced by the bacteria.

The study was presented at the Society for General Microbiology Conference in Dublin and suggested that the bacteria continually attacked the body "by producing tissue-destroying enzymes and poisons".

A poison identified by the team was similar in composition to rattlesnake venom.

Dr Martin Welch, who was the team's leader, said: "This is the first time that anyone has successfully proved that the way the bacteria grow affects the type of proteins they can secrete and therefore how dangerous they can potentially be to our health."

"We found that, in contrast to expectations, biofilms do indeed produce harmful chemicals."

The team hope the research will be used to help cystic fibrosis sufferers and to tackle hospital bugs such as MRSA.


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