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The structure of the most lethal toxin produced by some strains of C. difficile (C.diff) has been identified by researchers, a progress that could potentially lead to better treatment of healthcare associated infections.

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and other professionals learned more about the deadly bacteria through the use of cryo electron microscopy, X-ray crystallography and other biophysical methods, reports the medical school’s office of public affairs and communications. Through these methods, the researchers we able to identify how the toxin is delivered, which could help to develop new drugs that neutralize it.

“We identified two structures that help explain the molecular underpinnings of C. difficile toxicity,” says study co-author David Weber, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and director of the university’s Center for Biomolecular Therapeutics. “These structures will be important for targeting this human pathogen using structure-based therapeutic design methods.”

Researchers from the City University of New York, City College of New York, the National Institute of Standards and one pharmaceutical company also participated in the study.

The next step in the process will be for researchers to answer other questions regarding the molecular mechanism of the C.diff toxin.