Molecular pumps could make vaccines stronger

Scientists at the University of California - Berkeley have found that molecular pumps in Listeria bacteria that expel antibiotics, which make the bug harder to kill with standard drugs, also expel small signaling molecules that stimulate a strong immune response in cells that they infect.

The discovery was reported in the May 28 issues of the journal Science and was funded in part by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.

This finding of a new and highly immunogenic molecule being pumped out of bacteria, reports, suggests the possibility that vaccines using live or disabled bacteria to activate the immune system may be improved.

As a result of the new finding, vaccine-grade bacteria may be engineered to increase their production of the signaling molecule or the number of pumps.

"We think this could translate directly into better vaccines," Daniel Portnoy, a UC - Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology and of public health and associate faculty director of the campus's Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases, told "We can certainly get Listeria bacteria to make more of this molecule; we already have a mutant that does that."

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