Monday, December 12, 2005
Cure nears for flesh-eating bug
Northumbria University researchers say the discovery could cure toxic shock syndrome, septicaemia and the flesh-eating necrotizing faciitis.
The drug-resistant diseases are caused by streptococcus bacterium, which is more common now than 10 years ago.
Scientists say they are closer to discovering why the bug, which also causes sore throats, can kill.
Dr Gary Black and a team from the university's school of applied sciences, used a technique similar to DNA testing to isolate one of the many enzymes within the bacterium, which is thought to be responsible for triggering some of the diseases.
He discovered that the enzyme has a rare triple-stranded beta-helix shape, which is similar to only four other enzymes out of the thousands tested in recent years.
Dr Black, 39, from County Durham, now hopes one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies will take up his research and use his findings to develop revolutionary life-saving drugs.
He said: "This is a major breakthrough which has the potential to save thousands of lives in the future."
His findings are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America - one of the world's most cited multidisciplinary scientific journals.