Weakness in superbug bacteria could herald new treatments

The barrier around infectious cells can be defeated, say British researchers, potentially overcoming their resistance to antibiotics.

Weakness in superbug bacteria could herald new treatments

World Bulletin / News Desk

British scientists, raised the prospect of new treatments to tackle infections that are resistant to antibiotics after uncovering a weakness in the defences of "superbug" bacteria.

The researchers have identified a weakness affecting the membrane barrier that surrounds some of the most drug-resistant bacterial cells.

The journal Nature reported a discovery that may pave the way to a new generation of drugs that work by bringing down the defensive wall.

At the heart of their findings is the way "gram negative" bacterial cells transport the barrier's molecular "bricks".

Professor Changjiang Dong, from the University of East Anglia's (UEA) Norwich Medical School, told the Guardian: "We have identified the path and gate used by the bacteria to transport the barrier building blocks to the outer surface. Importantly we have demonstrated that the bacteria would die if the gate is locked.

"This is really important because drug-resistant bacteria is a global health problem. Many current antibiotics are becoming useless, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths each year.

"The number of superbugs are increasing at an unexpected rate. This research provides the platform for urgently needed new-generation drugs."

Bugs such as MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) are becoming increasingly immune even to antibiotics that are the last resort in treatment, adding risk to operations and procedures that should be routine.

In a report this year England's chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, warned that antibiotic resistant bacteria capable of causing untreatable infections posed a "catastrophic threat". She called for urgent action worldwide to address the problem.

"Gram-negative" bacteria, which include Escherichia coli (E coli) and the bugs that cause gonorrhea, cholera and Legionnaire's disease, are especially resistant to antibiotics. They can evolve a number of mechanisms to make them immune to drugs, including reducing the permeability of their outer membrane. But if the membrane barrier falls the bacteria die.

Haohao Dong, another member of the UAE team, said: "The really exciting thing about this research is that new drugs will specifically target the protective barrier around the bacteria, rather than the bacteria itself. Because new drugs will not need to enter the bacteria itself, we hope that the bacteria will not be able to develop drug resistance in future."

Last Mod: 19 Haziran 2014, 15:10
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