Reactive oxygen and nitrogen species are produced by the human immune system in response to infection. Methods to detoxify these reactive species are vital to the survival of human pathogens, such as Neisseria meningitidis, which is the major aetiological agent of bacterial meningitis. Following activation, macrophages produce superoxide (O2), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and nitric oxide (NO). The toxicity of O2, generated using X/Xo (xanthine/xanthine oxidase), and H2O2 was investigated in the presence and absence of the NO donor DEA-NONOate [2-(N,N-diethylamino)-diazenolate-2-oxide diethylammonium salt]. Most of the toxicity from X/Xo was due to H2O2. In N. meningitidis, NO decreased the toxicity of the H2O2. In contrast, in the enteric bacterium Escherichia coli, NO increased the toxicity of the H2O2.

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