Lather Up

Wash your mouth out with soap! Literally?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Uh oh… food poisoning! Your immune system protects you — but it can’t guard everywhere at once. What’s an upset stomach to do in the meantime? 

Enter Ryan Gaudet and colleagues at Yale University. 

To find the recipe for defense, they grew human cells in dishes. But first, they snipped out a single gene from each group. They did this for almost twenty THOUSAND different genes! By removing ingredients from the recipe one by one, they could identify the specific ones needed for protection.

Then they FLOODED the dishes with salmonella bacteria, which can cause MISERABLE food poisoning. 

Which missing ingredient turned these cells’ chances sour?

Cells WITHOUT a gene called APOL3 were FULL of bacteria. BINGO! The team put the protein made by it directly onto salmonella to see what happened. 

Surprise! The protein BUSTED UP salmonella by dissolving its protective membrane — just like soap! 

This discovery could lead to better antibiotic-free disinfectants. 

Even our cells know you’re SOAP-posed to wash your hands!

Reference: Gaudet, R.G., Zhu, S., Halder, A. et al. A human apolipoprotein L with detergent-like activity kills intracellular pathogens. Science 373, 6552 (2021).