Ohio State research shows how pathogens can be blocked from entering cells

New research at Ohio State University has demonstrated that the drugs used to fight infectious diseases could be designed to block a pathogen from entering into healthy cells.

In the study, researchers exhibited that an experimental agent could block one type of enzyme in cell cultures and mice. By blocking the enzyme, a specific parasite was prevented from entering white blood cells, an integral step in the infection process, Medical News Today reports.

"This represents a new way of thinking about treatment for infectious diseases," Abhay Satoskar, a professor of pathology at Ohio State University and the senior author of the study, said, according to Medical News Today. "This was a proof of concept to see whether this emerging strategy is viable. We aren't claiming we have a new drug for treatment. If we know this strategy works, then drugs can be developed that target different pathways in the host that could be important for pathogen invasion and survival."

In the experiments, Satoskar and colleagues tested the AS-605240 experimental drug to block the gamma form of the PI3K gamma enzyme. The enzyme controls cell movement in addition to cell membrane changes allowing the pathogen to enter. They tested the drug against Leishmania parasites, which infect an estimated 1.5 million new people with a parasitic skin infection each year worldwide.

In an animal cell culture experiment, the presence of the drug significantly reduced the ability of the parasites to penetrate white blood cell walls and reduced the number of phagocytes recruited to the infection site, reducing the opportunities the parasites had for infection. The researchers found similar encouraging results in an experiment with mice.

"There is no prevention for these kinds of diseases," Satoskar said, according to Medical News Today. "If we had a drug that would reduce the amount of phagocytes coming to the site of infection after parasites enter the skin, that would lead to a less severe infection that the body could probably control on its own."