A group of investigators at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) recently managed a significant breakthrough in their studies of the dangerous bacteria Vibrio cholerae. The bacterium is the agent that causes the terrible infectious disease known as cholera, but the team believes that this disease may soon become a thing of the past. The group, led by RPI associate professor of biology Blanca Barquera, managed to discover a mechanism the bacteria uses to produce energy, that has never been seen before in other creatures. This raises hope that the pathway could be used to attack the microorganism.
The scientists basically discovered a previously-unknown enzyme, which job is to provide the bacteria with precious energy, and thus sustain a potential infection in a human host. Given that we don't have this enzyme, it stands to reason that bioengineers could devise substances that will attack this molecule specifically, without inflicting any harm on other chemicals in the human body. Details of the new discoveries appear in the June 28 issue of the esteemed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).