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New Method for Infectious Diseases Research

Infectious diseases researchers at Umeå University in Sweden are studying the surface properties of bacteria together with materials scientists. Studies of the outermost parts of the cell walls of bacteria yield new information about the chemical composition of structures that are important for the capacity of bacteria to infect organisms. The findings are now being reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

When bacteria infect a host organism, they usually attach to tissue cells. Infectious diseases scientists at Umeå University are studying structural details of the outermost layer of bacterial cells in order to find new substances that can prevent bacterial infections. In collaboration with materials researchers at the Department of Chemistry, they describe new methods that facilitate and speed up their studies.

Chemist Madeleine Ramstedt is pursuing research on a material with new properties that prevent bacteria from attaching to its surface. The new material would be optimal for equipment in health care, where biofilms of bacteria can be a source of infection. In her research, Madeleine Ramstedt uses spectroscopic methods, among others, that she is now making available to her colleagues in the research consortium Umeå Centre for Microbial Research, UCMR.

Microbiologists Sun Nyunt Wai, Ryoma Nakao, and Bernt Eric Uhlin, together with chemists Jean-François Boily and Madeleine Ramstedt, were investigating whether new physiochemical analysis methods could also be used for microbial studies. The scientists combined so-called cryo-x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy with multivariate analysis. This analysis yields specific patterns of intensity curves depending on the chemical composition of the surface of the material being studied.

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