Saved by Salmonella?

UC Berkeley researchers use Salmonella bacteria to combat virus

(RxWiki News) Using one bug to combat another, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are hard at work on experiments that may one day lead to anti-viral treatments using something that most people try to kill; Salmonella bacteria.

Researchers at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health have reprogrammed Salmonella bacteria to carry virus-halting enzymes into cells without causing disease. Salmonella is the bacteria implicated in a number of foodborne illnesses, symptoms of which include fever, abdominal cramping and diarrhea.

Virologist Fenyong Liu, who teamed up with bacteriologist Sangwei Lu, said a number of vaccines, including those for smallpox and poilo, use living but weakened viruses to bolster the immune system. Their work together marks the first instance in which researchers successfully engineered bacteria for treatment of a viral infection, however.

Salmonella is extremely adept at invading cells, so researchers called upon the Salmonella bacteria to deliver the RNase P ribozymes to inactivate the gene activity of cytomegalovirus, or CMV. (Ribozymes are enzymes that are able to target and cut specific RNA molecules. CMV is a herpes virus implicated in cold sores, mononucleosis and chickenpox.)

Of the mice that had been infected, those that had been given oral doses of the ribozyme-carrying Salmonella survived much better (at least 50 days post infection) compared to mice that had not been treated or mice that had been given Salmonella carrying a defective version of the ribozyme. The latter group of mice died within 25 days of infection.

The study is set to be published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Review Date: 
February 8, 2011