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Sweet revenge against superbugs

Date:
July 21, 2015
Source:
University of Queensland
Summary:
A special type of synthetic sugar could be the latest weapon in the fight against superbugs. A team of scientists has discovered a potential new class of antibiotics inspired by sugar molecules produced by bacteria. New antibiotics to which bacteria are unlikely to develop resistance are urgently needed to combat the rise of superbugs -- drug resistant bacteria.
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A special type of synthetic sugar could be the latest weapon in the fight against superbugs.

A team of scientists from The University of Queensland and Queensland biotechnology company Alchemia have discovered a potential new class of antibiotics inspired by sugar molecules produced by bacteria.

New antibiotics to which bacteria are unlikely to develop resistance are urgently needed to combat the rise of superbugs -- drug resistant bacteria.

The research, led by Professor Matt Cooper and Dr Johannes Zuegg from UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) in partnership with Alchemia, was published in scientific journal Nature Communications.

Professor Cooper, Director of the IMB Centre for Superbug Solutions, said bacteria are less likely to become resistant to an antibiotic based on a modified version of their own sugar.

"Bacteria have cell walls similar to the walls of a brick house, except instead of mortar the walls are held together by sugar polymers," Professor Cooper said.

"But if you add one of our modified sugar molecules, they stop the linking process, destroying the cell wall and killing the bacteria."

"The cell wall has been a target for antibiotics such as penicillin and vancomycin before, but the difference here is that we are stopping a centrally important part of the cell wall linking process."

Dr Zuegg said the team examined hundreds of versions of Alchemia's modified sugar molecules to find those that will kill bacteria and are non-toxic to human cells.

"Most molecules screened to become drugs have a flat, planar shape, whereas these molecules are three dimensional," Dr Zuegg said.

"This means we can build on the sugar core in a variety of ways to make thousands of different combinations in three dimensional space.


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Materials provided by University of Queensland. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Johannes Zuegg, Craig Muldoon, George Adamson, Declan McKeveney, Giang Le Thanh, Rajaratnam Premraj, Bernd Becker, Mu Cheng, Alysha G. Elliott, Johnny X. Huang, Mark S. Butler, Megha Bajaj, Joachim Seifert, Latika Singh, Nicola F. Galley, David I. Roper, Adrian J. Lloyd, Christopher G. Dowson, Ting-Jen Cheng, Wei-Chieh Cheng, Dieter Demon, Evelyne Meyer, Wim Meutermans, Matthew A. Cooper. Carbohydrate scaffolds as glycosyltransferase inhibitors with in vivo antibacterial activity. Nature Communications, 2015; 6: 7719 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms8719

Cite This Page:

University of Queensland. "Sweet revenge against superbugs." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 July 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150721102757.htm>.
University of Queensland. (2015, July 21). Sweet revenge against superbugs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 23, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150721102757.htm
University of Queensland. "Sweet revenge against superbugs." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150721102757.htm (accessed May 23, 2017).

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