Source: Business Insider.com
The global threat of antibiotic resistance could finally be tackled after British scientists discovered a chink in the armour of deadly bacteria.
Health experts have warned that within 20 years even routine operations like hip replacements and organ transplants could be deadly because of the risk of infection.
But now scientists at the University of East Anglia have discovered how the bug responsible for E-coli and salmonella builds an impenetrable wall to keep out antibiotics.
They believe that within a few years they could develop a drug which switches off the wall-building mechanism, making the bacteria vulnerable.
“It is a very significant breakthrough,” said Professor Changjiang Dong, from the University of East Anglia’s (UAE) Norwich Medical School. 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. Many bacteria build up an outer defense which is important for their survival and drug resistance. We have found away to stop that happening…”
Bugs such as MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) are becoming increasingly immune to “last resort” antibiotics. If the trend continues the world may see a return to the pre-antibiotic era when even a trivial scratch could prove fatal.
At the heart of the breakthrough is the way “gram negative” bacterial cells transport the barrier’s molecular “bricks” to the surface of the cell and form a wall.
“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 – whatever other defensive ploys they may have developed.
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…”
Mark Fielder, Professor of Medical Microbiology at Kingston University and Hon Gen Sec of the Society for Applied Microbiology…(says), “Th(is)…is a welcome piece of news. The findings give science an insight into some of the structures that are important in the development of a bacterial membrane. This could be of great importance as if we fully understand the workings and construction of structures that help bacteria function as effective entities we can hopefully then exploit weaknesses therein and kill the organism.”