Scientist have found a way to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria by using the bacteria’s own
at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have discovered a new
way to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria by using the bacteria’s own
more than 50 years, antibiotics have been used to treat a variety of
deadly infections and saved countless lives. Its broad introduction and
application has changed the face of medicine worldwide.
despite the advances made to antibiotics over the years, the list of
antibiotic resistant bacteria, such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant
Staphylococcus aureus), E.coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter, is growing
and becoming one of the world’s most serious health concerns.
Infections once routinely treatable have now become more difficult to
combat and potentially more lethal.
where Paul Jackson and his LLNL team come in. The group has taken a new
approach to combating antibiotic resistant bacteria by developing a new
generation of antibiotics, based upon a much deeper understanding of
the bacteria’s own genes. The method consists of turning the pathogens’
own genes and processes against it.
than looking for a more traditional solution to the problem and perhaps
finding a chemical or antimicrobial solution, we decided to harness
genetic sequencing and take a closer look at the makeup of the
pathogen’s DNA,” Jackson said. “In doing so, we’ve identified the genes
within bacteria that encode for lytic proteins — a very important
component for cell survival and one that we could leverage against it.”
proteins are used by bacteria to make small nicks at strategic points
within the cell wall so the cell can synthesize new cell wall and
the lytic protein-producing genes indentified, Jackson’s team used the
genes to drive synthesis of the encoded proteins in the laboratory and
purified them. They then introduced the purified protein to the exterior
of the bacterial cells. The results were quick and very clear —
complete and total destruction of the pathogen’s cell wall. Because
these lytic proteins are unique to each bacterial species, the purified
protein will only target that specific bacteria cell species, leaving
other cells unharmed.
purified protein has a very narrow spectrum but can be mixed with other
lytic proteins from other bacterial species to produce a broader
spectrum of antibiotics,” Jackson said. “The research also has shown
that the purified lytic protein is very stable, with a long shelf life
and only extremely small amounts are required to very quickly destroy
these proteins are essential to the life cycle of the cell, it is
unlikely that the bacteria could adequately defend against it. If it
tried, it would likely deprive the cell of the ability to divide — a
process absolutely required for production of more pathogen cells.
said his team can sequence genomes and produce purified lytic proteins
within a few weeks for unknown bacteria species or species that have not
The team continues to test its pioneering technique on additional pathogens.