McMaster University physicists have first identified a simple mechanism used by potentially fatal bacteria to fight against antibiotics, the finding provides new clues as to how bacteria adapt and behave to a certain degree which was never seen before.
The results, published today in the journal Nature Communications Biology, may have implications for the global fight next to resistance to antibiotics, enabling the creation of more efficient and helpful drugs to fight infections.
“There are many, many bacteria and antibiotics but as they suggest a basic model that many of them apply, how we can better understand and improve resistance and predict,” says Maikel Rheinstädter, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at McMaster and lead author of the study.
The researchers examined the interaction of bacterial membranes with the antibiotic polymyxin B (PMB), commonly used in the treatment of meningitis, urinary tract infections, blood, and eye infections.
They focused on PMB as it was once considered the most powerful drug of its kind, a last line of defense for doctors when nothing functioned. This status was questioned in 2016, when Chinese scientists discovered a gene that allowed bacteria to become resistant, even against polymyxins.
Using techniques that are often used by physicists to search for materials, the team used highly dedicated tools to scan the deep bacterial membrane where the images were captured with such fine resolution that they could inspect individual molecules at about 1/1,000,000th width of a human hair strand.
The World Health Organization (WHO) deems the concern of antimicrobial resistance as a major hazard to public health around the globe and threatens our capability to take care of common infections, resulting in disability, prolonged illness, and death. About 70,000 people worldwide die each year from bacterial infections resistant to drugs such as tuberculosis HIV / AIDS, and malaria.