Scientists Find Bug-killing Chemical in Saliva

17 March 2002


A substance found in human saliva can kill several types of bacteria and fungi, some of which are resistant to currently available drugs, researchers at the University of Buffalo have found. MUC7 20-mer, as it is known, is taken up by bacterial and fungal cells and stops them pumping electrically charged particles, called ions, in and out of the cells, causing the bugs to die. It also seems to be active in only tiny amounts - less than 10 millionths of a gram is all that is needed to kill cultured bacteria in a dish. So if everyone naturally has this protein, why do people still have problems with mouth, gum and tooth infections then ? Because, says Libuse Bobek, one of the discoverers, MUC7 20-mer is only a small piece of a much larger protein that doesn't itself have any anti-bacterial effects. The other piece of good news is that because it is naturally present in the mouth, albeit in tiny amounts, the protein is not likely to produce any side effects when used therapeutically. So far the researchers have shown that it can kill candida, the fungus that causes thrush, E. coli, a bacterium that can cause food poisoning, Strep. mutans, which causes tooth decay, and other bugs that cause gum disease. The scientists, have now started to experiment with altered forms of the protein, to see if they can increase the bug-killing power of the agent. Show about MRSA, superbugs, phage therapy, bdellovibrio and antibiotic resistance


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