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New mechanisms of action for bacterial killing discovered
According to a recent study, a new group of antibiotics is able to kill resistant bacteria using a mechanism that has never been known before. The discovery has the potential to bring about a change in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.
Researchers at McMaster University in Canada discovered a new bacterial killing mechanism that can produce antibiotics that work against resistant strains of bacteria. The study results were recently presented in the renowned journal "Nature".
What are glycopeptide antibiotics?
Glycopeptides are active substances that are produced by soil bacteria. They represent a group of antibiotics that interfere with the structure of the cell wall of gram-positive bacteria. Since they act on multiresistant bacterial strains, they are of great clinical importance.
In this group of antibiotics, the researchers discovered two particularly promising compounds: Corbomycin and Complestatin. According to the research team, these agents offer a new, unprecedented way to kill bacteria.
How do the active ingredients kill bacteria?
“Bacteria have a wall around the outside of their cells that gives them shape and is also a source of strength,” explains biochemist Beth Culp, the lead author. While older antibiotics like penicillin kill bacteria by preventing the wall from building up, the new antibiotics do the opposite: they prevent the cell wall from breaking down.
Caught in your own cell walls
"For a cell to grow, it has to divide and expand," explains Culp. However, if the breakthrough of the cell wall is blocked, the bacteria are trapped in their own shells like in a prison. As a result, they cannot expand, grow, or divide.
Successful in mice
The researchers showed in mice that these new antibiotics can block infections caused by the drug-resistant bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. This bacterium can trigger numerous, sometimes life-threatening infectious diseases such as blood poisoning (sepsis), inflammation of the inner skin of the heart (endocarditis) or inflammation of the mammary gland (mastitis).
Discover new modes of action in known antibiotics
The team now wants to use the approach to discover other antibiotics that work against resistant bacteria. The researchers identified the new mode of action by analyzing the genetic basis of the compounds in the glycopeptide group.
An approach to find more effective antibiotics
"We hypothesized that if the genes that made these antibiotics were different, maybe the way they killed the bacteria was different," Culp sums up. This approach can also be applied to other antibiotics and thus help to discover new mechanisms of action in already known antibiotics. (vb)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Elizabeth J. Culp, Nicholas Waglechner, Wenliang Wang, et al .: Evolution-guided discovery of antibiotics that inhibit peptidoglycan remodeling; in: Nature, 2020, nature.com
- McMaster University: Antibiotics discovered that kill bacteria in a new way (published: February 12th, 2020), brighterworld.mcmaster.ca