The botulism toxin is one of the most dangerous toxins known to us, with as little as one microgram having enough spores to be fatal to a human adult. These neurotoxins are produced from the bacteria Clostridium Botulinum and cause important communications between muscles and nerve cells to be corrupted. This bacterium causes the botulism illness by inducing paralysis and, in extreme cases, respiratory arrest by blocking these vital nerve functions.
However, thanks to scientists at UC Irvine, in conjunction with scientists at Germany's Hannover Medical School, more light is being shed on this bacteria, and innovative treatments are underway to keep this poison out of bloodstreams.
The botulism toxin has four main means of entry into the bloodstream: through the intestine, through contaminated food, through open wounds and in rare cases, through inhalation in laboratories working with the virus or those working with unsafe concentrations of Botox.
The research being conducted at the University of California, Irvine is focused on food-borne botulism. The worry regarding this type of infection is that when an outbreak occurs, many people are affected simultaneously. In the facilities of public health and governmental departments pertaining to disease control, outbreaks like botulism are concerning and unpredictable. With commercial outbreaks as recent as the 2007 Castleberry's food company contamination, 8 people were hospitalized due to their exposure to the botulism virus and required respirators and various treatments to overcome their poisoning.
(illustration of the "Apollo landing module," the 3-D compound, courtesy of Rongshen Jin)
With concerns for public safety against mass outbreaks of this virus in the commercial food industry, the research team, under the leaderships of Professor Rongshen Jin, has manufactured the 3-D structure of one of the compounds in the botulism neurotoxin. By structuring this protein, UCI researchers were able to identify specific locations where this compound attaches to carbohydrates on the walls of the small intestine, therefore shedding light on how this compound enables the toxin to continue into the bloodstream.
Through further testing on laboratory mice, these researchers have also located certain inhibitor molecules that impede the connection of the botulism compound to the intestinal carbohydrates and furthermore inhibit this toxin from entering the bloodstream.
Leader of the study Rongshen Jin (left, courtesy of faculty.uci.edu), professor of physiology and biophysics at UCI, hopes that this study will offer important stepping stones to the development of preventative treatments for botulism in general.
“Currently, there is no efficient countermeasure for this toxin in case of a large outbreak of botulism,” Jin said. “Our discovery provides a vital first step toward a pharmaceutical intervention at an early point that can limit the toxin’s fatal attack on the human body.”
UC Irvine is a prime location for innovative life science research, exemplified by Professor Jin in this article and also apparent in other articles detailing state-of-the-art work being conducted in various departments at this university.
Be sure to check out our other articles highlighting the $120 billion life science marketplace success at UCI in such research as neuochemical mechanisms, immune system responses, and regeneration with stem cells.
If you are a research scientist or lab supplier interested in networking with others in your field at UC Irvine, Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. invites you to attend our annual Irvine Bioresearch Product Faire™, held every year on the Irvine campus. Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. is a full-service science research marketing and events-planning company that hosts events at top research institutions nationwide. If you are interested in attending this show, please click the button below. Otherwise, we encourage you to view our 2014 schedule for a more complete geographical selection.