Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. has announced that its collaboration with the Health Protection Agency (HPA) in the United Kingdom has led to a significant development in mapping the proteome of the organism responsible for the recent E. coli outbreak in Europe. Using Thermo Scientific LTQ Orbitrap mass spectrometry technology, HPA researchers have identified the protein toxins expressed by the deadly strain, which has resulted in 37 deaths and made nearly 3,400 people ill.
The HPA is an independent organization set up by the U.K. government in 2003 to protect the public from the threats of infectious diseases and environmental hazards. Thermo Fisher and the HPA are collaborating in a study on the use of mass spectrometry to better understand the role of microorganisms in causing illness and disease in humans.
“The significance of this study is that scientists were able to develop techniques to study microorganisms and determine how the genetic code is being translated into the protein building blocks that determine traits such as toxicity,” said Ian Jardine, Vice President of Global Research and Development, Thermo Fisher Scientific. “Our leading Orbitrap mass spectrometry system is providing researchers with the ability to understand what makes this E. coli strain so devastating, and may lead to an improved understanding of how to treat patients.”
Orbitrap technology specifically enabled scientists to identify and analyze the protein fingerprint of this new strain of E. coli using a proteomic method that is rapid and reliable. Understanding the organism’s ability to produce toxins and other proteins present in this specific strain may significantly reduce the risk to human health and provide more effective treatment options. This ability to identify toxic proteins and other proteins of significance in a disease process may also be applicable to a range of illnesses caused by microorganisms.