Fighting infectious diseases with inhibitors of microbial adhesion to host tissues

Nathan Sharon*, Itzhak Ofek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


The majority of infectious diseases are initiated by the adhesion of pathogenic organisms to the tissues of the host. In many cases this adhesion is mediated by lectins present on the surface of the infectious organism that bind to complementary carbohydrates on the surface of the host tissues. Soluble carbohydrates recognized by the bacterial lectins block the adhesion of the bacteria to animal cells in vitro. Moreover, such carbohydrates have been shown to protect against experimental infection by lectin-carrying bacteria of different mammals, such as mice, rabbits, calves, and monkeys. Agents other than carbohydrates also block adhesion, as demonstrated with cranberry juice as well as with low and high molecular weight preparations isolated from the juice. Both kinds of preparation inhibited the adhesion in vitro of Escherichia coli to different animal cells. In addition, the high molecular weight material acted similarly on the adhesion of Helicobacter pylori to human gasrointenstinal cells, and on the coaggregation of oral bacteria. Furthermore, in limited clinical studies regular drinking of cranberry juice had a significant preventive effect on bacteriuria, and the high molecular weight constituent of the juices was also effective in decreasing the salivary level of Streptococus mutans, the major cause of tooth decay. Because the inhibitors of adhesion examined are not bactericidal, the selection of resistant inhibitor strains is unlikely to occur. Together, these findings may lead to new therapeutic strategies that are in dire need because of the world-wide increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-272
Number of pages6
JournalCritical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002


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