A toxin produced by certain deadly strains of pathogenic bacteria can be stopped in its tracks by the element manganese.
Shiga toxin — generated by Shigella bacteria and some strains of Escherichia coli — is shuttled through several organelles in the infected cell and eventually shuts down cellular protein production. Somshuvra Mukhopadhyay and Adam Linstedt at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, fluorescently tagged the toxin and found that, in cells treated with manganese, the toxin was rerouted to the cell's degradative compartment and destroyed. Manganese targets a protein called GPP130 — which is normally required for the trafficking of the toxin — preventing the toxin from binding to it.
Mice injected with the toxin and treated with manganese stayed healthy throughout the six-day study, whereas untreated mice died within four days.