February 19 : Scientists at McMaster University found a new group of antibiotics that has a unique way of killing bacteria. The new discovery will help in fighting antimicrobial resistance.
A new way of killing bacteria
The team found that corbomycin that belongs to the glycopeptides family of antibiotics and produced by soil bacteria, and complestatin that is less known, have distinctive ways of killing bacteria. They block the bacterial cell wall from functioning and in the process kill bacteria. Bacteria usually have a strong wall around their cells that not only give them shape but also make them strong.
After experimenting on mice, the researchers revealed that these newly-found antibiotics help in blocking infections that are caused by dangerous bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus. The bacteria that can cause many serious infections have the power to resist the effects of drugs. World Health Organisation found that antibiotic resistance is one of the major threats to global health, with about 700,000 deaths worldwide every year.
Why the antibiotics are unique
Antibiotics like penicillin usually kill bacteria by stopping them from developing the wall around them, but the newly-found antibiotics prevent the wall from being broken down, making it difficult for the cell to multiply. A cell can only grow and expand when it can divide. When the wall around each cell is not allowed to break, the cells get trapped in a prison-like situation. So when each cell is prevented from dividing it can neither grow nor expand.
Researchers studied the common members of the glycopeptides family, particularly those whose genes lack resistance mechanisms, to find out if they could be antibiotics that can kill bacteria in a different way. The researchers wanted to find out if the genes made these antibiotics different and killed the bacteria in a different way.
The team eventually confirmed that the wall around the bacteria was the site of action where these new antibiotics attack. The team believes that this method can be applied to other antibiotics as well to find out new ones with different mechanisms of action.