Researchers to identify the secrets of Salmonella’s survival

7th October 2011

SamonellaThe Institute of Food Research, strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), is to collaborate with the University of Sheffield to investigate how Salmonella survives during its lifecycle within our bodies, as a way of finding chinks in its armour that can be exploited to develop new therapies.

Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (S. Typhimurium) is the most common cause of food poisoning in the EU, and worldwide S. Typhi and S. Paratyphi are responsible for 800,000 deaths each year due to contaminated food and water. Whilst efforts to prevent contamination continue, there is a clear need to develop new treatments to combat infection with Salmonella following ingestion, and to do this more knowledge of how it survives and replicates within the host is needed.

Once inside our bodies, Salmonella invades the epithelial cells that line the gut and reproduces, and can become systemic by invading and growing in macrophage cells, which are part of the body’s immune defences. This shows how well Salmonella is adapted to grow in different environments, and previous work at IFR has already shown that it uses different strategies to feed in different host environments.

“We inferred that Salmonella uses different pathways to generate the energy required for growth and survival in macrophages and epithelial cells,” said Dr Arthur Thompson. “What we want to do now is work out what these pathways are. Does Salmonella use anything from the host cells to contribute to its growth?”

The researchers have been awarded over £400,000 by BBSRC to identify the different ways in which Salmonella obtains its energy for growth and survival within the two types of host cells. They will also use cutting edge techniques to determine exactly what it is that Salmonella gets from its host cells to permit growth.

“If we can identify what Salmonella depends on for growth in the cells, we may be able to design new therapeutic agents to block this happening and prevent its growth.”