MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Esther Bullitt, Ph.D.
Dept. of Physiology & Biophysics
Boston University School of Medicine
Boston, MA 02118-2526
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: We know that saliva has properties that allow us to swallow easily, and to help prevent gum disease and infections in the mouth. But is that really the only use for the 1-2 liters (1-2 quarts) of saliva we produce every day? We decided to test whether a component of saliva, Histatin-5, can help prevent diarrheal disease (Traveler’s Diarrhea by Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC)) that is caused by bacteria commonly found in contaminated food and water.
ETEC are bacteria that have hundreds of thin hair-like fibers on their surface, called pili. These bacteria bind specifically to the surface of the gut using these pili, and the bacteria need to stay bound long enough to initiate disease. Studies by Mike Levine’s group in the 1970’s showed that pili are necessary for enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) to cause disease. No adhesion, no disease.
One aid to remaining bound is the unwinding and rewinding of the pili. These helical fibers can unwind up to 8 times their original length, acting as shock absorbers during fluid flow. Continue reading