Chance discovery links inflammatory bowel disease with common bacterial gut toxin

May 17, 2018, John Innes Centre
Professor Tony Maxwell's team at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, worked with colleagues at Brigham and Women's Hospital (Boston, USA) to uncover the surprise link. Credit: Andrew Davis

New research has uncovered a surprise link between a common bacterial toxin found in the gut and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The researchers at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK, working alongside a team of scientists from Brigham and Women's Hospital (Boston, USA), have helped establish a connection between microcin B17, a well-known toxin produced by E. coli bacteria, and IBD.

IBD includes long-term conditions such Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis which together affect more than 300,000 people in the UK.

The research, published today in the peer-reviewed journal Cell, raises prospects of future therapy for IBD sufferers.

The John Innes Centre scientists, led by Professor Tony Maxwell, have been working with microcin B17 for several years in their search for new antibiotics. It is produced by E. coli (Escherichia coli) as a weapon against other bacteria in the gut.

Professor Maxwell says: 'This is largely a chance finding. We have been studying this toxin for its antibacterial properties and we were contacted by Professor Richard Blumberg who leads the Boston group for quite different reasons—they thought there might be a connection between the toxin and IBD."

The two teams worked together to show that breakdown products from the toxin seem to trigger that is characteristic of IBD.

The research, furthermore, identifies the oxazole class of aromatic organic compounds as a new source of environmental and microbial triggers of gastrointestinal inflammation.

Dr. Fred Collin, a postdoctoral researcher in Professor Maxwell's lab, who carried out key aspects of the work says: 'These findings will advance our understanding of how gut inflammation associated with IBD may be triggered and offer new hope of potential future therapy."

The research team say that advances in genome-wide association studies have established genetic links with the development of IBD. But environmental elements and host reactions have yet to bet precisely defined.

In addition to increasing public understanding of IBD, the study sheds new light on the microbiome, the trillions of bacteria in the gut.

"The bacteria that live inside us have a lot of impact on well-being and the twist here is that it's not the E. coli bacteria but the toxin that's produced by the that appears to have an effect," explains Professor Maxwell.

"They produce these toxins to kill their neighbours in their fight for ecological niches but it appears that the breakdown products of the can initiate gut inflammation," he adds.

Explore further: E. coli's internal bomb may provide novel target for treatment strategy

More information: Cell (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.04.037

Related Stories

E. coli's internal bomb may provide novel target for treatment strategy

April 21, 2018
Bacteria's internal bomb, the so-called toxin-antitoxin (TA) system that is part of the normal bacterial makeup, may be triggered to make bacteria turn on themselves, providing a valuable target for novel antimicrobial approaches ...

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in food

May 9, 2018
Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a germ that occurs naturally in the gut of mammals and birds, as well as in the human intestinal flora. However, certain E. coli types can cause severe diarrhea in humans. These virulent E. coli ...

New insight into the molecular weapons of the plant microbiome

February 5, 2018
Like all organisms, plants are associated with bacterial communities in which helpful and harmful bacteria compete for dominance. Among the weaponry of these warring bacteria are molecular syringes that some bacteria can ...

New insights into bacterial toxins

September 5, 2017
A toxin produced by a bacterium that causes urinary tract infections is related to, yet different in key ways from, the toxin that causes whooping cough, according to new research. The findings, which will be published in ...

Oxygen can wake up dormant bacteria for antibiotic attacks

December 8, 2016
Bacterial resistance does not come just through adaptation to antibiotics, sometimes the bacteria simply go to sleep. An international team of researchers is looking at compounds that attack bacteria's ability to go dormant ...

Viruses can turn harmless E. coli dangerous

April 16, 2009
For her doctorate, Camilla Sekse studied how viral DNA can be transmitted from pathogenic to non-pathogenic E. coli. Viruses that infect bacteria in this way are called bacteriophages. Her findings reveal that such transmission ...

Recommended for you

Targeting sepsis, the leading cause of ICU deaths, with a nanocarrier-delivered microRNA

December 3, 2018
One in three patients who die in the U.S. dies of sepsis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is one of the leading causes of death in intensive care units and, with an estimated price tag of $20 ...

Cells using sugar for metabolic process may fight inflammation

November 27, 2018
New research by a team from the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering has discovered that a type of adult stem cell found in a variety of tissues can be manipulated to enhance tissue regeneration and potentially treat inflammatory ...

To resolve inflammation, location matters

November 19, 2018
Health conditions that involve inflammation run the gamut, from multiple sclerosis and lupus to arthritis, diabetes, and cancer. While inflammation can serve as a normal response to help the body deal with injury or infection, ...

Patchy distribution of joint inflammation resolved

November 16, 2018
Chronic inflammatory rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and spondylo-arthritis (SpA) are chronic, disabling diseases with a poor outcome for loco-motoric function if left untreated. RA and SpA each affect ...

Discovery suggests new route to fight infection, disease

November 14, 2018
New research reveals how a single protein interferes with the immune system when exposed to the bacterium that causes Legionnaires' disease, findings that could have broad implications for development of medicines to fight ...

Can't exercise? A hot bath may help improve inflammation, metabolism, study suggests

November 14, 2018
Hot water treatment may help improve inflammation and blood sugar (glucose) levels in people who are unable to exercise, according to a new study. The findings are published ahead of print in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.