The Associated Press is reporting on a new study released in the Journal Science. The study found that manganese, a substance found in nuts and whole grains, may someday help doctors fight the kind of E. Coli food poisoning that sickened thousands of people in Europe last summer. Antibiotics aren’t effective against Shiga toxin E. Coli and in fact may make the poison worse by causing the bacteria to burst open, releasing more Shiga and making patients sicker. There is no treatment for the infections, which sicken 150 million worldwide and kill more than 1 million each year, according to the study authors. The toxin is also produced by Shigella, which can be acquired through contaminated food or water as a case involving Subway demonstrated last year (click Shigella link above for more). About 14,000 cases of this illness are reported in the U.S. every year.
From the AP:
While a variety of germs can cause food poisoning, the European outbreak involved a dangerous strain of the bacterium E. coli. It infects people and pumps out a poison called Shiga toxin. Some other bacteria also produce this toxin, which overall causes more than 1 million deaths a year worldwide. The European food poisoning outbreak included about 4,000 people and 50 deaths.
There’s no definitive treatment for Shiga toxin. But in Friday’s issue of the journal Science, scientists report that they could protect mice against a lethal dose by injecting them with the mineral manganese.
The animals were injected daily, starting five days before they were exposed to the toxin. While untreated mice died within four days, the injected mice remained healthy. The manganese made the toxin vulnerable to being destroyed by cells.
Scientists still need to do more research before they can assess the usefulness of manganese in treating people. Manganese is already approved for medical use and it’s inexpensive, they note. So that might make it especially useful in developing countries, where nearly all cases of Shiga toxin poisoning occur, wrote the researchers, from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Leave a comment