Latest Drug Target Chokes Microbes Toxic Secretions of Their Own

Jun, 2021 - by CMI


Antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as E.coli can be killed with this new drug mechanism.

'Superbugs' or antibiotic-resistant bacteria are considered amongst the most threatening organisms for public health. Now, researchers from University of Georgia discovered a latest potential weakness amongst the worst genusthat can choke them through toxic compounds of their own.

Antibiotics were undoubtedly amongst 20th century's most vital scientific discoveries, however decades of misuse and over-prescription have undermined their effectiveness dramatically. Pathogenic bacteria rapidly evolved themselves and are resistant to present drugs and the world is growingly running short of them. Researchers have warned the world that if this continues to go in this way, superbugs can lead to nearly 10 million annual deaths by 2050.

There is a sure need for new antibiotics and they should be capable of working on several mechanisms for giving us best possible protection. And now, scientists are successful in identifying the latest mechanism to target the superbugs. Focusing on classes of particularly concerning microbes - gram-negative bacteria, the study found that these bacteria consist of two protective cell membranes making it difficult to target for antibiotics. Moreover, they secrete lipopolysaccharides (LPS), a toxic molecule that is able to, among other things, set off possibly life-threatening situations including septic shock.

A molecule known as cardiolipin was the key for this latest study. The team observed that in the absence of cardiolipin the E.coli was no longer able to transfer the poisonous LPS from the core to its cell surface. Rather, these toxic compounds kept on building inside the cell till it burst open, eventually destroying the bacterium. The surviving ones will exhibit weakened outermost membranes, making it easier for existing antibiotics to finish them off.

“This paper is one of the first to link cardiolipin to maintaining the outer membrane of E. coli,” said the study's lead author, Martin Douglass, “Future therapeutics could target aspects of this process and make gram-negative bacteria vulnerable to antibiotics.”