February 26, 2020

Manganese May be Treatment for Shiga Toxin

The journal Science has published a study about using the mineral manganese to treat shiga toxin, one of the complications of E. coli infections. The study examined mice exposed to lethal doses of the toxin that didn’t suffer any of the typical side effects when treated with manganese.

Shiga toxin is produced by some E. coli strains. The infection is usually caused by eating undercooked contaminated ground beef, unpasteurized apple juice, contaminated water, raw milk, and alfalfa sprouts. Some person-to-person spread can take place in places such as nursing homes. The highest rates for infection are in children under the age of 5. Elderly people are also at high risk for this infection.

This toxin can lead to complications that range from intestinal disease to kidney failure and death. Shiga toxin destroys infected cells and literally makes them explode (called cytotoxic effect) when an antibiotic is used for treatment. This spreads the toxin further, which is why treatments can be ineffective. More than 150,000,000 people are infected with Shiga toxin every year; a million of those people die.

Scientists have discovered that, in mice, manganese causes Shiga toxin to degrade in cells, so they are resistant to it. Shiga toxin attaches to, and hides behind, a protein called GPP130 so it can enter cells. Manganese interferes with this attachment, so the toxin is treated like any other poison and is destroyed in lysosomes, which are basically the cell’s garbage container.

In the trials, mice were given high doses of manganese before exposure to Shiga toxin and continuing after exposure; they all survived. Untreated mice died within 4 days. Manganese can be given at the same time as antibiotics.

Further study is needed before this treatment will be applicable to humans. High doses of manganese are poisonous to people. And scientists don’t know if this treatment is effective for people who are already infected with Shiga toxin.

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