Scientists find that special molecules in the mucus counteract pathogenic bacteria

Slime is ubiquitous in our bodies, and it is estimated that we have more than 200 square meters of surface covered with this specific and very useful substance in our bodies. New research conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows that mucus is very important for preventing infection with pathogenic bacteria.

Past studies have already shown the importance of mucus in trapping bacteria. In this new study, however, the researchers found that certain sugar molecules contained in mucus, called glycans, can interfere with the interaction of harmful bacteria with each other and, consequently, the spread and spread of infection. This is a “therapeutic gold mine,” as Katharina Ribbeck, professor of biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the authors of a study published in Nature Microbiology, said.

Glycans bind themselves to proteins called mucinas, which can be considered “basic bricks” of the same delmuco. Glycans also have very complex biological functions. They can, for example, completely change the behavior of microbes or even change their own identity, as the researcher has shown.

In the study, however, the researchers focused in particular on the relationship between the pathogenic bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, bacteria that can cause cystic fibrosis, among other things, and which are particularly dangerous in those people who have a system already weakened the immune system, and the same glycans are present in the mucus.

Researchers have exposed these bacteria to glycans and found that the bacteria immediately became less harmful and less able to attach and kill cells. The researchers now intend to understand the effects of individual glycans, given that there are different types of glycans, because they think that each type of glycans interacts specifically with certain pathways or with certain types of bacteria.

Needless to say, this research can be very useful for the implementation of any new drugs or new ways to counteract disease-causing bacteria.

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Melissa Ward

I am a mature-aged graduate student at Colorado State University, having previously been a student under Prof. Daniel Reed and having a deep understanding of the scientific method and scientific reporting. After graduation, I worked briefly for Daily Times-Call ( as an assistant and am not a part-time contributor to Biology Reporter.

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Melissa Ward