Brett Smith for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
By studying a common marine bacterium, a team of international scientists may have found an important treatment for chronic sinusitis, a condition that plagues millions of people every year.
Led by researchers from Newcastle University, the team isolated an enzyme from Bacillus licheniformis, a bacterium found on the surface of seaweed capable of dispersing the extracellular DNA in biofilms that protect the bacteria responsible for sinus inflammation.
According to the team´s recently published report in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, in vitro tests showed the enzyme, dubbed NucB, dispersed about 58 percent of targeted biofilms.
“In effect, the enzyme breaks down the extracellular DNA, which is acting like a glue to hold the cells to the surface of the sinuses,” said co-author Nicholas Jakubovics, from the School of Dental Sciences at Newcastle University. “In the lab, NucB cleared over half of the organisms we tested.”
Data shows sinusitis is one of the most common reasons people consult their physician and the condition affects over 10 percent of adults in the U.K. and Europe.
“Sinusitis is all too common and a huge burden on the [British healthcare system],” said co-author Mohamed Reda Elbadawey, Consultant of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, at Newcastle´s Freeman Hospital. “For many people, symptoms include a blocked nose, nasal discharge or congestion, recurrent headaches, loss of the sense of smell and facial pain.
“While steroid nasal sprays and antibiotics can help some people, for the patients I see, they have not been effective and these patients have to undergo the stress of surgery,” he added. “If we can develop an alternative we could benefit thousands of patients a year.”
For the study, the team collected mucous samples and sinus biopsies from 20 sinusitis patients. They were able to isolate between two and six different species of bacteria from each patient.
The team investigated 24 different bacteria strains in the laboratory and all produced biofilms containing considerable amounts of extracellular DNA. They were successfully able to disperse the biofilms formed by 14 bacteria strains via treatment with the novel bacterial deoxyribonuclease, or NucB.
The research effort that positively identified the novel use for the enzyme originated when one of Dr. Elbadawey´s patients, a student, mentioned a lecture on the discovery of NucB. The doctor contacted the Newcastle University researchers who had been working with the enzyme.
In previous studies of Bacillus licheniformis, Newcastle University scientists found when the bacteria want to move on from their seaweed, they release an enzyme capable of breaking down external DNA. The result is the breaking up the biofilm that once held the bacteria to the plant. The scientists found when the enzyme was purified and added to other biofilms, it quickly dissolved the slime, exposing the bacterial cells and leaving them vulnerable.
Elbadawey and the Newcastle University researchers are currently working together to explore the enzyme´s medical potential. They said they plan to conduct further tests in an effort to develop a product and eventually set up collaboration with industry.