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Progress in fight against superbugs


Matt Woodley


26/10/2021 5:12:40 PM

Australian researchers have found a new way to make antibiotics more effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Petrie dish with bacteria.
Attaching chemoattractants to an antibiotic can reportedly improve the body’s chance of killing dangerous bacteria.

A multidisciplinary team from Monash University and Harvard University have found a way to make antibiotics more effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
 
The research, published in Nature Communications, shows how attaching chemoattractants to an antibiotic can improve the body’s chance of attracting immune cells to the site of infection and improve their ability to kill dangerous bacteria.
 
‘When looking at how our immune system can fight bacteria there are two important aspects we look at,’ lead researcher Dr Jennifer Payne said.
 
‘The first is our ability to entrap bacterial cells and kill them. The second is the signals – the chemoattractants – calling for more neutrophils, white blood cells which lead the immune system’s response to resolve infection.
 
‘We’ve been working on using dual-function antibiotic-chemoattractant “hybrids”, which improve the recruitment of neutrophils and increase the engulfing and killing of the bacteria.’
 
While the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated news cycles and medical journals since January 2020, antimicrobial continues to evolve and remains one of the World Health Organization’s top 10 global public health threats
 
According to the study’s authors, the findings provide a pathway to increasing the effectiveness of antibiotics that does not involve clinicians giving patients higher doses or relying on the discovery of new types of antibiotics.
 
As part of their research, a chemoattractant known as formyl peptide was linked to vancomycin, a commonly used antibiotic that binds to the surface of the bacteria, before being tested against golden staph infections, an increasingly common antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
 
‘By stimulating our powerful immune system in this way with the immunotherapeutic antibiotic, we’ve shown in mouse models that the treatment is two-fold more effective than just using the antibiotic alone at one-fifth lower dose,’ Associate Professor Max Cryle, an EMBL Australia Group Leader at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, said.
 
‘This very promising new avenue of research is bringing a lot of potential benefits to the ever-increasing threat of drug-resistant superbugs.’
 
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