What molecule am I?
For 50 years, the surfactant dodecyl sodium sulfoacetate has been used in a variety of applications, such as foams in petroleum production, adhesives, oral hygiene products, and denture detergents. But in the past decade, thanks to Chinese herbal medicine, it acquired a new name and is being studied as a bactericide.
Houttuynia cordata is an East Asian flowering plant known in English as fish mint, lizard tail, chameleon plant, and several other names. In Vietnam, India, and China, it is consumed as a vegetable or a garnish. Its use in traditional Chinese medicine to treat pneumonia and, more recently, SARS is limited by its tendency to produce severe allergic reactions when injected.
The active ingredient in H. cordata has been identified as houttuynin, or 3-oxododecanal. This aldehyde is chemically unstable, leading researchers to prepare stable derivatives to explore potential medicinal uses. One of these derivatives is dodecyl sodium sulfoacetate, which for this purpose is called sodium new houttuyfonate (SNH). SNH and its cousin, sodium houttuyfonate (sodium 1-hydroxy-3-oxo-1-dodecanesulfonate), have been approved by the China Food and Drug Administration for treating respiratory tract infections (pneumonia and bronchitis) and skin infections.
Earlier this year, Yunlong Pan, Qing-Yu He, and colleagues at Jinan University (China) reported the use of an iTRAQ-based proteomic method to establish the mechanism that SNH uses to kill the pneumonia bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae. (iTRAQ is the labeling technique "isobaric tags for relative and absolute quantitation".) The researchers found that SNH upregulates several proteins in S. pneumoniae that produce reactive oxygen species. Specifically, they found that H2O2 produced from the upregulation kills S. pneumoniae in a dose-dependent manner.
So before you dismiss sodium new houttuyfonate as one of those chemicals with a weird name, keep in mind that traditional Chinese medicine directed investigators to a potential cure for pneumonia.
Learn more about this molecule from CAS, the most authoritative and comprehensive source for chemical information.