Monday, December 2, 2013

Cranberries Stop Bacteria In Their Tracks

cranberries, health, mirobiology

For over a century cranberries have been more than a Thanksgiving staple; they've also been heralded for their reported ability to prevent and even treat urinary tract infections.

But clinical research attempting to link cranberry consumption to a reduction in urinary tract infections remains somewhat inconsistent. A 2012 study by a team from Taiwan and the U.S., published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that consuming cranberries did seem to prevent urinary tract infections in certain populations, but qualified the findings with a strong word of caution against using the "folk remedy" as a treatment.

Most research on the cranberry's effect on infections focuses primarily on its ability to prevent bacteria from attaching to a host cell. If the bacteria can't stick to bladder cells, they can't cause infections. But, in recent years, researchers at McGill University in Montreal have uncovered a new weapon that cranberries have against bacteria.

Bacteria on the move

A key factor in a bacterium's ability to infect a host cell is its motility, or how well it can move around. For some types of bacteria, their motility depends in part on their whip-like appendages known as flagella. The flagella allow the bacteria to swim around and, in some cases, actually swarm. The more bacteria can move, the more virulent they can become. This is especially the case in bacteria that cause urinary tract infections.

"Motility is actually a really important factor in infection," said Nathalie Tufenkji, a chemical engineer at McGill University. "It helps the bacteria spread up the urinary tract. It helps them also infect the cells."

Tufenkji and her colleagues were interested in discovering what the compounds in cranberries did to certain bacteria's gene expression.

They took E. coli that had been isolated from the urinary tract and exposed it to different concentrations of cranberry powder. They saw that when the cranberry powder was present, the E. coli's ability to swim and swarm dramatically decreased. 

For the rest of the story: http://www.livescience.com/41580-cranberries-stop-bacteria-in-their-tracks.html

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