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The study that deciphers how pathogens adapt to oxygen changes

Barcelona /  Scientists from the Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) have developed a system capable of deciphering how pathogens, bacteria and viruses adapt to changes in oxygen.

The system, called AnaeroTrans, has allowed us to find out, for example, that the E.coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria can adapt to environmental changes through different mechanisms, which opens the door to better understand and treat infections.

The new technique will also improve “antibiograms”, microbiological tests that measure the sensitivity of a bacterium against different antimicrobials, which is done on patients who are suspected of having some type of infection to determine which antibiotics to prescribe and which is usually carried carried out in an aerobic environment, that is, in the presence of oxygen.

However, in many of the places where infections occur in the human body, the presence of oxygen is scarce or nil and, in addition, it can vary.

Adaptation to oxygen changes

An example is that of contaminated food, because during the intake the bacteria are in contact with the air, although when they travel through the intestines they find less and less oxygen.

“Infectious agents are able to adapt to these changes in oxygen, but at the same time this makes it difficult to know how they infect people,” the IBEC researchers have indicated.

To overcome this difficulty, a group of IBEC researchers, led by Eduard Torrents, also a professor at the University of Barcelona (UB), have developed a bioengineering-based solution thanks to which they can control and monitor oxygen concentrations at that pathogens are exposed.

New study technique

The new AnaeroTrans technique has been used for now to study two very common bacteria: E. coli and P. aeruginosa, according to the study, which researchers have published in the FASEB Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB, for its acronym in English).

Thanks to this technique, experts have simulated how these two species adapt to low-oxygen environments, which are where these bacteria are normally found.

In the case of E.coli, for example, it is found in the lower part of the human intestine and can cause both intra and extraintestinal infections, so being able to study it under more realistic conditions is of great help to experts.

Using this new solution, researchers have also been able to describe, under different oxygen conditions, the so-called “RNR profile“, some enzymes proposed as targets for antimicrobial treatments and have discovered that these enzymes adapt in different ways when exposed to different oxygen concentrations .

The new technique will also allow researchers to create laboratory environments that reproduce those that occur in real situations, such as cystic fibrosis, with the aim of discovering new sanitary solutions. (March 25, 2020, EFE / PracticaEspañol)

(Automatic translation)

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