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Home Industry News Superbugs produce Rattlesnake-type poisons

Superbugs produce Rattlesnake-type poisons

8th September 2008

Hospital superbugs can make poisons similar to those found in rattlesnake venom, scientists have claimed.

Toxins manufactured by communities of the hospital superbug Pseudomonas aeruginosa called biofilms, are around 1,000 times more resistant to antibiotics than free-floating single bacterial cells and attack human natural defences.

Scientists found that the biofilm bacteria can produce a protein which is similar to one of the active ingredients in rattlesnake venom.

In the case of rattlesnake venom, the protein causes the host cell to “commit suicide and die” – a reason why rattlesnake bites are so dangerous.

“This is the first time that anyone has successfully proved that the way the bacteria grow – either as a biofilm, or living as individuals – affects the type of proteins they can secrete, and therefore how dangerous they can potentially be to our health,” says Dr Martin Welch from the University of Cambridge.

The author’s of today’s report claim their findings will be of considerable importance to the NHS, which spends millions of pounds every year fighting the hospital-based bugs.

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