Bacteria, inflammation fighting discovery

A molecule that could reprogram the body's immune system to fight back against chronic inflammatory and infectious diseases has been discovered in a Queensland study.

Derived from glucose in immune cells, the molecule can stop bacteria from growing and dampen inflammatory responses.

The finding is a critical step towards future therapeutics that train immune cells, according to Dr Kaustav Das Gupta and Professor Matt Sweet from the University of Queensland Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

"The effects of this molecule called ribulose-5-phosphate on bacteria are striking - it can cooperate with other immune factors to stop disease-causing strains of the E. coli bacteria from growing," Dr Das Gupta said.

"It also reprograms the immune system to switch off destructive inflammation, which contributes to both life-threatening infectious diseases such as sepsis as well as chronic inflammatory diseases like respiratory diseases, chronic liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and dementia."

The research was carried out on a strain of E. coli bacteria that causes about 80 per cent of urinary tract infections and is a common cause of sepsis.

Pre-clinical trials confirmed the role of this pathway in controlling bacterial infections.

Prof Sweet said human cells were also used to demonstrate that ribulose-5-phosphate reduced the production of molecules that drive chronic inflammatory diseases.

"By boosting the immune pathway that generates ribulose-5-phosphate, we may be able to give the body the power to fight back against inflammatory and infectious diseases," Prof Sweet said.

Many anti-inflammatory therapies target proteins on the outside of cells, but this pathway occurs inside cells allowing a new approach using mRNA technology.

Prof Sweet said the technology had shown promising results in delivering the enzyme that generateds ribulose-5-phosphate into immune cells and had been filed as a provisional patent by UniQuest, UQ's commercialisation company.