German researchers have just solved the mystery of how these substances work.
- As pathogens' resistance grows, scientists are searching for a class of drugs that could replace antibiotics.
- Antivitamins that switch off vitamins in bacteria are being investigated.
- Scientists have been struggling to understand how naturally occurring antivitamins do what they do.
Shutting down the dance of the proteins<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU3Nzk5OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMDk4NzI5NX0.FPVenf2jQ4I4raQqn5EpK_DxCGoYRSw3wzIzryl2ys0/img.jpg?width=980" id="27eb8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6cfa008038077a6fbcab3f53d2af6cf8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Vitamin B1" />
Image source: Ekaterina_Minaeva/Shutterstock<p>The study was led by <a href="https://www.uni-goettingen.de/en/89703.html" target="_blank">Dr. Kai Tittmann's</a> group from the Göttingen Center for Molecular Biosciences at the University of Göttingen in collaboration with <a href="https://www3.mpibpc.mpg.de/groups/de_groot/bgroot.html" target="_blank">Bert De Groot's Computational Biomolecular Dynamics Group</a> from the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry Göttingen, and with <a href="https://www.chem.tamu.edu/rgroup/begley/" target="_blank">Tadhg Begley's group</a> from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.</p><p>The B1 antivitamin is naturally occurring, and is produced by bacteria as a means of killing off competing bacteria. Its critical atom appears in an apparently unimportant location, deepening the mystery.</p><p>To see how that single atom was doing such an effective job, the researchers used <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/97/7/3171" target="_blank">high-resolution protein crystallography</a>. This allowed them to observe the interaction between the B1 antivitamin and B1 on an atomic level.<br></p><p>What they saw was that the antivitamin completely interrupted the "dance of protons" that's seen in functioning proteins. Tittmann <a href="https://www.uni-goettingen.de/en/3240.html?id=5964" target="_blank">says</a>, "Just one extra atom in the antivitamin acts like a grain of sand in a complex gear system by blocking its finely tuned mechanics." (Tittmann's group was the first to document this "dance" in <a href="https://www.technologynetworks.com/proteomics/news/dance-of-the-protons-discovery-shows-proteins-instant-message-324139" target="_blank">2019</a>.)</p>
Antivitamins don’t bother humans<p>One particularly significant finding of the new research is that, although the B1 antivitamin prevents B1 from functioning in bacteria, it doesn't interfere with the vitamin for humans. This offers hope that antivitamins can be developed that target and neutralize pathogens without doing harm to patients.</p><p>De Groot's team created computer simulations to learn why humans are unaffected by the errant atom, and found that, "The human proteins either do not bind to the antivitamin at all or in such a way that they are not 'poisoned.'"</p><p>The possibility that antivitamins may at some point be ready to step in and replace failing antibiotics is not totally unexpected. Antivitamins were <a href="https://chemistry-europe.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/cbic.201500072" target="_blank">actually used</a> in the development of antibiotic and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/antiproliferative-drug" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">antiproliferative</a> drugs such as prontosil and aminopterin. And there are already some antivitamin medicines in use, notably antagonists for vitamins B12, B9, and K.</p>
The human body is endlessly fascinating.
- Last year, it was reported that a Belgian man arrested for drunk driving brewed the alcohol in his own gut.
- The disorder, auto-brewery syndrome, occurred after he took a round of antibiotics.
- He was cured after a fecal donation from his daughter.
What is Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT)?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="29f77231a58d168a5819bc02e41d66b9"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Awn3haOpfcI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Fecal transplants, or bacteriotherapy, help replenish bacterial balance, especially when antibiotics kill too many "good" bacteria. The procedure is most often performed by colonoscopy, though sometimes a nasoduodenal tube is required. While there are a variety of tests needed before doctors will perform bacteriotherapy, fecal transplants actually <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4895930/" target="_blank">date back</a> at least 1,700 years to Traditional Chinese Medicine.</p><p>Fecal transplants are most commonly performed to treat diseases caused by the bacteria, <em>C. difficile</em>. Over 15,000 people <a href="https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/clinical-trial-testing-fecal-microbiota-transplant-recurrent-diarrheal-disease-begins" target="_blank">die every year</a> from such diseases. </p><p>Researchers are constantly learning more about the incredible complexity and importance of the microbiome. Besides gut-related disorders, bacteriotherapy <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4895930/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">may soon be used</a> to treat a variety of ailments, including obesity, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, hay fever, and eczema. </p><p>The doctors feel confident recommending this particular intervention. Treating ABS often involves changes in diet, probiotics, and drug therapy. Yet antibiotics have strange effects on the microbiome, and in this case, it was enough to make him resistant to the usual therapies. </p><p>The team in Belgium is hopeful they've found another avenue for treating ABS. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Moreover, we can imagine a future point - after additional research to evaluate the safety of faecal microbiota transplantation - at which this approach might become standard therapy for gut fermentation syndrome."</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
The physical action of handwashing plus the properties of soap is a one-two punch for the virus.
- A common recommendation from experts to help protect against coronavirus is to wash your hands often, but why? It turns out that each time you do it is an effective two-pronged attack.
- As Kate the Chemist explains, the virus has a weak outer membrane. By using the proper handwashing technique, you're actually breaking through that membrane and ripping the virus apart.
- Soap is an important part of the equation because of its two sides: the hydrophobic side (which grabs onto the virus), and the hydrophilic side (which grabs onto the water). Washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds allows the virus to be rinsed away.
Dr. Kate Biberdorf explains why boiling water makes it safer and how water molecules are unusual and cool.
- University of Texas professor and science entertainer Kate the Chemist joined Big Think to talk about water molecules and to answer two interesting and important questions: Why does boiling water make it safe to drink, and what happens to water when you boil or freeze it?
- According to Kate, when water is heated to a certain temperature (100°C/ 212°F) the hydrogen bonds break and it goes from a liquid to a gas state. Boiling for a minimum of 5 minutes kills any viruses and bacteria that were in the water.
- "Water is a freak and so it is one of my favorite molecules ever," Kate says. "It has these unique properties and we are surrounded by it constantly. We also are made of water. We have to drink water to survive...It's a really, really fun molecule to investigate."
Men take longer to clear COVID-19 from their systems; a male-only coronavirus repository may be why.
- A new study found that women clear coronavirus from their systems much faster than men.
- The researchers hypothesize that high concentrations of ACE2-expressing cells in the testes may store more coronavirus.
- There are many confounding factors to this mystery—some genetic, others social and behavioral.
Where is coronavirus hiding?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzE1NTgxNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0ODY4NzkxMX0.D84W6ZUOhv6Q-Ki7ddiF3zmDLK_Z6vuXtzfB9R8zLAA/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C179%2C0%2C180&height=700" id="1cc38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b4e083fb45357e1fb56a8571e8cdc553" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A laboratory technician at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow, holds a container of test-tube samples from people tested for novel coronavirus.
Further research required<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="z9vH49bb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="7ef1ab8ca2f90b28543d580c408ed25f"> <div id="botr_z9vH49bb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/z9vH49bb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/z9vH49bb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/z9vH49bb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The Montefiore-Einstein study is currently preliminary, and further research will be required before researchers can determine what, if anything, its results illuminate.</p><p>The study is currently published on <em>Medrxiv</em>, a <a href="https://www.aje.com/arc/benefits-of-preprints-for-researchers/" target="_blank">preprint</a> distributor. This means the study has been shared publicly before undergoing the <a href="https://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/howscienceworks_16" target="_blank">peer-review process</a>.</p><p>Preprints allow researchers to communicate their findings before official publication, which can take months if not a year or longer. This pre-publication can lead to early feedback, increased visibility, and new collaborations. It's especially helpful for <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6400415/" target="_blank">early-career researchers</a> trying to establish themselves.</p><p>However, given the speed at which coronavirus is spreading, researchers have leaned on preprints as a means of disseminating data to other experts faster than the peer review allows. As a result, <em>Medrixiv</em> has seen a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/14/science/coronavirus-disinformation.html" target="_blank">surge of preprint studies</a>, but they must be read within the context of their preliminary status.</p><p>The Montefiore-Einstein also has its limitations. The study had an initial sample size of only 68 subjects (48 males, 20 females) and a further examination of three families. And the connection of coronavirus to ACE2 enzymes in the testes came from database research, not direct observation.</p><p>The researchers acknowledge the need for further investigation. In particular, Shastri stresses the need to confirm the coronavirus's ability to infect and multiply in testicular tissue. If other researchers find their data promising, they could move forward with new research to build upon the study and see if this clue fits into the mystery.</p>
One clue among many<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzE1NTc5NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTQ3NjEzMX0.G-p4KniVRhsHXoIOyFfzEARdN5nGXWWkkQa85x6_ooM/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C281%2C0%2C298&height=700" id="d50c6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="938d51b21df264aae5e883e5f1f9c894" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Coronavirus protesters in Los Angeles. Men are more likely than women to disregard health warnings from officials.