The treatment of serious infections caused by pathogenic bacteria relies on “last resort” antibiotics, but the growing resistance of “superbugs” to most clinically approved drugs puts patients at risk of possible death.
Flinders University researchers are focusing on how bacterial cells adapt and resist antimicrobial drugs – with a new paper looking at a hospital strain of Acinetobacter baumannii and its cellular response to colistin, an important antibiotic.
The World Health Organization names antibiotic resistance as one of the greatest threats to global health, food security and development, with a growing number of infections – including pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea and salmonellosis – becoming more difficult to treat as antibiotics are used to treat them. become less effective.
Antibiotic resistance leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality, researchers warn.
“Around the world, there are fewer and fewer new antibiotics being identified and produced for medical use – and this is compounded by the growing antibiotic resistance seen in bacterial strains causing infections,” says Dr Sarah Giles, microbial researcher at Flinders.
“If we can understand bacterial mechanisms, like this, we can potentially apply new therapies to treat patients, especially those with multidrug-resistant bacterial infections. »
In an NHMRC-Flinders University fellowship study, Dr. Giles and other authors noted that the A. baumannii bacterial strain had a two-part signaling system that altered its potential response to antibiotic treatment.
This observed “two-component signal transduction” involves a response regulatory protein in the StkR/S system acting as a repressor and, when genetically suppressed, hundreds of transcriptional changes are observed.
Some of these changes affect the composition of the outer membrane of the bacterial cell, resulting in resistance to colistin.
“Colistin is known as an antibiotic of ‘last resort’ and therefore it is essential to identify and understand the mechanisms contributing to bacterial resistance to antibiotics,” says lead researcher Professor Melissa Brown.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites change over time and no longer respond to drugs, making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of spreading disease. serious illnesses and even death.
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