According tomedia reports, humans are in urgent need of new weapons against infectious bacteria, especially those that are hard to kill. Now, researchers from northeastern universities in the United States have discovered the weapon in a tiny parasitic worm. So far, mouse experiments have shown that this is promising.
For decades, humans have gained the upper hand in competing with bacteria by using antibiotics, but the massive use has led to bacteria evolving to acquire resistance to these drugs. Develop new drugs to defeat bacteria, bacteria evolve to produce resistance, continue to develop new drugs to defeat bacteria, bacteria continue to evolve to produce resistance … And when this cycle breaks down, humans are put at a disadvantage.
We know that developing new drugs is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process, and that bacteria have evolved drug resistance faster than people can catch up with, and there are even “superbugs” that are resistant to all known drugs. In response, a recent report warned that superbugs could kill up to 10 million people a year by 2050, returning humanity to the “dark ages of medicine”.
“We’re running out of antibiotics,” said Kim Lewis, director of the Center for Antibacterial Drug Discovery (ADC) at Northeastern University and lead researcher on the new study. “
Fortunately, humans aren’t the only creatures that want to kill bacteria — other bacteria are also looking for new weapons to kill competitors. So a promising path was found by scientists. The team from ADC did just that, finding the new antibiotic, called darobactin, in the gut microbiome of the online bug. These small bugs are parasites that live in the digestive systems of caterpillars and other insects. When they live, they release a bacterium called Photorhabdus, which kills caterpillars so that the bugs and bacteria can enjoy the caterpillars.
To prevent other opportunistic microbes from stealing food, Photorhabdus also produces an antibiotic compound, which is the basis of darobactin.
Importantly, the new compound can kill Gram-negative bacteria. Gram-negative bacteria are known for their tenacity and have a second layer of membrane on their cell walls. The researchers found that darobactin binds to a protein called BamA, which interferes with bacteria building cell wall mechanisms and killing them.
The researchers tested the drug’s effect on Gram-negative bacteria in experimental mice, and the results showed that it was effective. While bacteria may eventually become resistant to any new drug, the team notes an interesting detail — the evolution of drug-resistant bacteria that has lost the ability to infect mice because the BamA protein is too important for bacteria.
Of course, while the results in mice and laboratory petri dishes may seem promising, they may not be applicable to humans. But the team is hopeful for the next study.