August 8, 2020

Scientists Find New Way to Fight Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Through the Cell Wall

Antibiotic resistant bactéria are becoming a serious threat to human health. The CDC estimates that 2,000,000 Americans are sickened with antibiotic resistant bacterial infections every year, and 23,000 die. For instance, antibiotic resistant Salmonella causes at least 6,000 illnesses every year in this country. Those numbers will most likely increase over the next few years.

Antibiotic Resistance

But a new study published in PLOS Biology has found that bacterial cells have a weakness in the wall surrounding them that could be used to destroy them. Gram negative bacteria, such as E. coli, have a cell envelope that is made up of an outer and inner membrane. The two membranes are separated by an area that is called the periplasm.

That double membrane in the cell wall makes the bacteria more resistant to antibiotics. The two membranes communicate with each other, and can find and fix damage caused by antibiotics.

Professor Jean–François Collet, of the Université Catholique de Louvain, one of the study’s co-authors, told the Independent that, “On the wall there is a protein that serves as a guard, and so when there are antibiotics coming this protein will feel that and will then turn inside and reach another protein on the inner membrane, and they will communicate.”

Scientists removed the physical connection between the outer membrane and periplasm and discovered that the bacteria lost the ability to sense defects in the envelope. Drugs that target the envelope structure in the cell wall may be an effective method for destroying these cells. Even a slight increase in the size of the periplam disrupted the communication between the layers of the envelope.  We showed that if you increase the distance between the two walls, the protein will turn inside and try to reach its friends on the inner wall, but it will not be able to reach them.”

Researchers are developing compounds that could interfere with the bacterial cell walls and kill more antibiotic resistant bacteria. This could make older antibiotics, and those that are becoming less effective, more effective again.



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