As antibiotic-resistant bacteria become a huge health problem in the coming decades, the world urgently needs new drugs and treatments,media New Atlas reported. Now, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have designed new antibacterial molecules from wasp venom, showing hope in tests in mice.
Antibiotics were one of the most important scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century, preventing many people from dying from infection. Unfortunately, decades of overuse have led bacteria to increasingly develop resistance to drugs. It is predicted that without intervention, these “superbugs” could kill as many as 10 million people a year by 2050.
To prevent this nightmare scenario, scientists are working on a new set of antibiotic candidates, while also looking for other non-drug ways to destroy them, including lights, materials, magnetic nanoparticles that tear them apart, and even molecular drills.
A particularly promising new drug candidate is the venom of a variety of animals and insects, such as scorpions, scorpions and wasps. And the new study is the last.
“There is an urgent need for new antibiotics to treat the growing number of drug-resistant infections, and venom is an untapped source of new potential drugs,” said the study’s senior author, César de la Fuente. “We believe that venom-derived molecules like the one we designed in this study will be a valuable source of new antibiotics.”
In this case, the team started with a highly toxic peptide found in The Wasp venom in South Korea. The peptide, known as mastoparan-L, can kill bacteria, but unfortunately it is also harmful to humans — it destroys red blood cells and can trigger anaphyl shock in some people. So the team had to find a way to transform it.
It is thought that a part of the end of the peptide is responsible for toxicity to humans, so the researchers replaced it with a group of five peptides — known areas of antimicrobial peptides that are strongly active against bacteria. The end result is a new molecule, which the team calls mast-MO.
Next, they tested the new molecule in mice infected with deadly levels of E. coli or Staphylococcus acobacteria. Mast-MO seems to have protected mice in most cases — 80 percent of the treated animals survived, while those who received only natural mast-L peptides were much less likely to survive. Mast-MO can also be safely used at higher doses, while mast-L can cause serious side effects at the same level.
The team also found evidence of how the molecule fights bacteria. It seems to make their outer membranes more porous and make it easier for molecules to penetrate into their bodies, which may suggest that collaborating with other drugs could further improve the antimicrobial response. At the same time, mast-MO seems to be able to “summon” more immune cells to the site.
The study found that several variants of mast-MO are antibacterial, and the team hopes to continue developing them into drugs to help combat this emerging health threat.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.