McMaster University Researchers Targeting Bacteria Cell Membranes Fighting Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

Research towards fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria

6:56 AM, 21st September 2013
McMaster University Research News
(From left) Chris Verschoor, a postdoctoral fellow, Bowdish’s lab; Dawn Bowdish, Assistant Professor; Maya Farha, PhD candidate in Brown’s lab; Eric Brown, Professor, McMaster University.

ONTARIO, CANADA: Researchers at McMaster University are using a new approach to fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The technique involves researchers in the Michael G DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research targeting the cell membranes of MRSA - a bacteria responsible for increasing the number of life-threatening infections both in hospitals and communities.

“Bacterial membranes have been relatively unexplored as targets for new antibiotics because of concerns of the potential for toxicity of membrane-active drugs,” said Eric Brown, Professor, McMaster University.

Maya Farha, Brown’s student, suggested targeting bacterial membranes with various combinations of membrane-active chemicals shows synergy. In other words, two chemical compounds that together would have a greater effect and avoid toxicity.

“The bacterial membrane is a fundamental structure for energy production and storage in bacteria that functions like a battery. We sought out two classes of chemicals in this work that could disrupt the ‘bacterial battery’ and found that when we combined them, they were wildly synergistic. Voila, a dead battery means no energy in the cell. And a bacterium with no energy is a dead bacterium,” said Brown.

The McMaster discovery is an important one, because antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a growing public health threat worldwide. Scientists have been warning that the weakening arsenal against so-called ‘superbugs’ could mean everyday infections could again become a major cause of death - just as they were before the discovery and development of  penicillin in the late 1930s by the likes of Alexander Fleming.

“Every day, we are thinking about new ways to address this problem and trying to take an innovative approach,” said Brown.

© McMaster University News

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