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New weapon against highly resistant microbes within grasp

Date:
May 28, 2010
Source:
University of Bonn
Summary:
An active compound from fungi and lower animals may well be suitable as an effective weapon against dangerous bacteria. We're talking about plectasin, a small protein molecule that can even destroy highly resistant bacteria. Researchers have shed light on how the substance does this. The authors see plectasin as a promising lead compound for new antibiotics.

An active compound from fungi and lower animals may well be suitable as an effective weapon against dangerous bacteria. We're talking about plectasin, a small protein molecule that can even destroy highly resistant bacteria . Researchers at the Universities of Bonn, Utrecht, Aalborg and of the Danish company Novozymes AS have shed light on how the substance does this. The authors see plectasin as a promising lead compound for new antibiotics.

These results will be published in Science journal on 28th May.

More and more bacteria are becoming resistant to normal antibiotics. This is especially true for the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Most of the pharmaceutical weapons are now useless against these MRSA strains . According to estimates, as many as every second patient in the USA treated by intensive-care medicine comes down with an MRSA infection.

Plectasin could shift the balance of power back in the doctors' favour. But how exactly does the little protein molecule do that? The Bonn researchers in Dr. Tanja Schneider and Professor Hans-Georg Sahl's team have answered these questions together with Danish and Dutch colleagues. Thus plectasin disrupts the forming of the cell wall in bacteria so that the pathogens can no longer divide.

Theft at the bacteria's construction site

In this process, plectasin behaves like a thief which steals the stones off a mason. 'It binds to a cell-wall building block called lipid II and thus prevents it from being incorporated ,' Professor Sahl explains. 'However, bacteria cannot live without a cell wall.' It comes as no surprise that the most famous antibiotic penicillin also inhibits cell-wall synthesis.

Yet plectasin is more similar in its mode of action to another widely used drug, vancomycin. Vancomycin had been the drug of choice in combating MRSA strains since the 1980s. Meanwhile, though, there are more and more bacteria that are also resistant to vancomycin. 'However, these strains are still susceptible to plectasin,' Dr. Tanja Schneider emphasises. Nevertheless, there is no permanent solution to the resistance problem even with a new antibiotic . 'It is always just a question of time until the pathogens mutate and become insensitive ,' she says. 'It's a never ending arms race.'

Plectasin belongs to the class of defensins. These defence molecules are widespread among fungi, animals and also plants. Humans, for example, produce defensins on their skin and in this way nip infections in the bud. 'Defensins not only kill pathogens but also alert the immune system', Dr. Hans-Henrik Kristensen from the Danish company Novozymes AS explains. 'So the pharmaceutical industry is setting its hopes on them.'


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bonn. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Tanja Schneider, Thomas Kruse, Reinhard Wimmer, Imke Wiedemann, Vera Sass, Ulrike Pag, Andrea Jansen, Allan K. Nielsen, Per H. Mygind, Dorotea S. Raventσs, Sψren Neve, Birthe Ravn, Alexandre M. J. J. Bonvin, Leonardo De Maria, Anders S. Andersen, Lora K. Gammelgaard, Hans-Georg Sahl, Hans-Henrik Kristensen. Plectasin, a Fungal Defensin, Targets the Bacterial Cell Wall Precursor Lipid II. Science, 28 May 2010: Vol. 328. no. 5982, pp. 1168 - 1172 DOI: 10.1126/science.1185723

Cite This Page:

University of Bonn. "New weapon against highly resistant microbes within grasp." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100527142003.htm>.
University of Bonn. (2010, May 28). New weapon against highly resistant microbes within grasp. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100527142003.htm
University of Bonn. "New weapon against highly resistant microbes within grasp." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100527142003.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

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