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Health: No more NyQuil?

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A new sinusitis treatment derived from marine bacteria show promise, according to UK researchers.

Marine enyzme holds promise for sinusitis treatment

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — An enzyme derived from marine bacteria holds promise in treating sinusitis, according to a team of scientists and surgeons from Newcastle, who are developing a new nasal spray that helps break down mucus.

The enyzme is from the Bacillus licheniformis, which scientists had started researching for the purpose of cleaning the hulls of ships. In a paper on the potential new treatment in PLOS ONE, the scientists describe how in many cases of chronic sinusitis the bacteria form a biofilm which can protect them from sprays or antibiotics.

In vitro experiments showed that the bacterial enzyme, called NucB dispersed 58 percent of 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. In the lab, NucB cleared over half of the organisms we tested,” said Dr. Nicholas Jakubovics of Newcastle University

Research on the medical potential of the enzyme started after a doctor in Newcastle University’s hospital system heard a student patient mention a lecture on the discovery of NucB.

Sinusitis is one of the most common ailments in the UK. Developing new alternative treatments for sinusitis could help thousands of patients per year, who, in some cases, might be able to avoid surgery.

In the research, the team collected mucous and sinus biopsy samples from 20 different patients and isolated between two and six different species of bacteria from each individual. In all, 24 different strains were investigated in the laboratory and all produced biofilms containing significant amounts of extracellular DNA. Biofilms formed by 14 strains were disrupted by treatment with the novel bacterial deoxyribonuclease, NucB.

The biofilm, is made up of bacteria held together by a web of extracellular DNA which adheres the bacteria to each other and to a solid surface — in this case in the lining of the sinuses. The biofilm protects the bacteria from attack by antibiotics and makes it very difficult to clear them from the sinuses.

In previous studies of the marine bacterium Bacillus licheniformis, Newcastle University scientists led by marine microbiologist Professor Grant Burgess found that when the bacteria want to move on, they release an enzyme which breaks down the external DNA, breaking up the biofilm and releasing the bacteria from the web.

When the enzyme NucB was purified and added to other biofilms it quickly dissolved the slime exposing the bacterial cells, leaving them vulnerable.

The team’s next step is to further test and develop the product and they are looking to set up collaboration with industry.

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