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A. A Cell's Defense Mechanism Against Certain Bacterial Toxins

Narrator: This is Science Today. Many bacterial pathogens make toxins that undermine our immune systems and allow them to proliferate and cause disease. Raffi Aroian, an associate professor of biology at the University of California, San Diego, says the largest class of toxins that disease-causing toxin molecules make are called pore-forming toxins.

Aroian: They basically are proteins that the bacteria make that insert into the membranes of cells and they just cause holes to form in the cell.

Narrator: These pore forming toxins are what cause bacterial infections such as Staphylococcolus and streptococcus. For the first time, Aroian and his group discovered a mechanism that allows animal cells to fight off these bacterial toxins.

Aroian: If we could figure out a way to beef up our defenses against pore forming toxins, we actually could principally affect simultaneously a lot of bacterial diseases. We actually could improve our chances of succeeding without using an antibiotic against a whole host of bacterial diseases, including staph infections, strep infections, clostridia infections.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.