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Researchers: Consider antibiotic to treat listeria infections

By Allen Cone
Researchers: Consider antibiotic to treat listeria infections
This is an electron micrograph of a listeria monocytogenes bacterium. A study found the food-poisoning infection was shown to respond to an antibiotic. Image by CDC/Wikimedia Commons

Sept. 5 (UPI) -- An antibiotic was shown to be effective at combating the food-poisoning infection listeria, despite expectations that the bug would resist the treatment.

Researchers in Scotland found that fosfomycin was effective at killing listeria in infected cells in the lab and in mice. Their findings were published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Genetics.

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"Our study focused on Listeria, but this important discovery may be relevant for other species of bacteria too," research leader Dr. Jose Vazquez-Boland, of the University of Edinburgh's Division of Infection Medicine, said in a press release. "It is encouraging that we may be able to repurpose existing drugs in the race against antibiotic resistance."

Fosfomycin, sold under the brand name Monurol, is used to treat urinary tract infections in women.

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People get listeria, also known as listeriosis and named after British pioneer of sterile surgery Joseph Lister, from contaminated foods such as soft cheeses, smoked salmon, pates, meats and salads.

People with weak immune systems, such as older people and newborns, are especially vulnerable.

An estimated 1,600 people get listeria each year and about 260 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Miscarriages also result from listeria.

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Fosfomycin was originally found to fail to kill listeria because the bacteria carry a gene that enables it to break down the drug.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found certain genes are activated when the bacteria infect the body and cancel out the drug-destroying gene.

Fosfomycin may prove highly beneficial because other medications are unable to treat the infection because these bacteria reproduce within the cells of the body and frequently affect the brain.

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They analyzed 1,696 L. monocytogenes from 13 countries, representing the four lineages of the species.

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