Science

Scientists Make Better Antibiotics To Fight Resistant Bacteria

By Rodney Rafols , Sep 20, 2016 04:10 AM EDT

For many years antibiotics have been used to fight bacteria. But bacteria is a living organism that could adapt to its environment, and with the use of antibiotics bacteria as well have learned to adapt. This has produced strains of bacteria that are more resistant to antibiotics and it has become a health concern.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that more than two million illnesses each year could be attributed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. That poses a major health threat as bacteria become even more resistant to antibiotics. In the fight against it researchers have to scale up antibiotics as well in order to counter this threat.

Researchers at the UT Southwestern Medical Center have developed a synthetic compound that could block bacterial pump that expels antibiotics. Bacteria that uses this pump are treated to this new compound. The result is that bacteria exposed to this compound become more sensitive to antibiotics, making them less resistant to it, as Phys Org reports.

The UTSW teams have focused on the Escherichia coli and pathogens that have the same pumps. These types of bacteria have been known to have become resistant to antibiotics. The synthetic compound used is a class called peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers, or simply called PPMO. It is used to target a specific efflux pump found on bacterial walls.

What the PPMO does is to block out the efflux pump of the bacteria. This prevents it then from expelling the antibiotics used. The PPMO then acts as an aid to the antibiotics in killing the bacteria, though in itself does not kill the bacteria, according to Science Daily.

"This is just a different strategy," says Dr. David Greenberg, senior author of the study and Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Microbiology at UT Southwestern. As of now what physicians do is to administer higher doses of antibiotics against bacteria, a method that is proving to be inefficient as bacteria adjust to this and become even more resistant.

The two teams at UT Southwestern are headed by Dr. Greenberg and Dr. Erdal Toprak. Dr. Greenberg has been developing new antibiotics using PPMO while Dr. Toprak and his team have been using a device to study how bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics. His team was able to identify a mutation in E. coli that increased sensitivity to antibiotics by blocking its efflux pump, according to Science Daily. The two teams then collaborated together to create the PPMO compound to target the E. coli bacteria.

The next target of the teams is to test the compound on animal subjects. They would also find out if the PPMO compound could be used to other strains of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Should it prove to be effective against other bacteria, it could pave the way to creating better ways to treat diseases that have become resistant to antibiotics.

Research continues in other health areas as well, such as a report by iTechPost on how alcohol consumption is dependent on the environment.

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