The World Health Organization (WHO) states drug-resistant bacteria are a global concern, with hundreds of thousands of cases of drug-resistant infections diagnosed annually. New hope may be in sight, however, as researchers say they have discovered how bacteria develop their defenses against modern medicine.
“We have identified the path and gate used by the bacteria to transport the barrier building blocks to the outer surface. Importantly, we have demonstrated that the bacteria would die if the gate is locked,” stated Prof. Changjang Dong of the Norwich Medical School to MNT. “This is really important because drug-resistant bacteria is a global health problem. Many current antibiotics are becoming useless, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. The number of superbugs are increasing at an unexpected rate. This research provides the platform for urgently needed new generation drugs.”
In the study, the research team found that bacteria transport lipopolysaccharides to their outer surface, therefore building a protective barrier that prevents antibiotics from being effective. The goal is now to further develop small molecules that target the defense barrier of pathogens. Until now, how bacteria became drug-resistant was little understood.
“If we target the machinery for building the outer barrier of the bacteria, that means the drugs just need to attack the outer surface of the bacteria,” explained Dong. “[The drugs] will not necessary go inside the bacteria and will not be subject to bacterial efflux that pumps out the drugs, which are two main drug resistance methods bacteria have. Therefore, pathogenic bacteria will hardly develop resistance against the drugs we will develop using this approach.”
WHO states the evolution of resistant bacteria is a natural phenomenon that occurs when microorganisms “replicate themselves erroneously or when resistant traits are exchanged between them.” Bacteria that are allowed to develop drug-resistance will produce more bacteria with boosted defense mechanisms. For this reason, breakthroughs like this most recent study are important for global health. Drug-resistant bacteria not only claim more lives, they prevent the control of epidemics and raise global health costs.
“WHOs 2014 report on global surveillance of antimicrobial resistance reveals that antibiotic resistance is no longer a prediction for the future; it is happening right now, across the world, and is putting at risk the ability to treat common infections in the community and hospitals,” indicates the organization. “Without urgent, coordinated action, the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries, which have been treatable for decades, can once again kill.”