Bioinspired antibiotic therapy shows promise against drug-resistant bacteria

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Researchers from the National University of Ireland Galway have developed a novel bioinspired antimicrobial treatment, consisting of iodo-thiocyanate complexes, that has shown promise against drug-resistant bacteria.

With antimicrobial resistance a growing issue, developing new antibiotic strategies is of increasing importance. Lead author Vincent O’Flaherty (National University of Ireland Galway), commented:  “The rise of ‘superbugs’ leaves the clinical community with a rapidly dwindling number of options to treat infectious disease and to prevent the spread of resistant bacteria in, for example, hospital settings.”

In this study, published recently in Frontiers in Microbiology, the researchers drew inspiration from peroxidase enzymes, which play a role in our immune response to bacterial infections, producing highly-reactive oxidized molecules in the presence of hydrogen peroxide.

However, producing enzymes in quantities usable for antibiotic treatments would be both expensive and impractical. The team therefore developed an enzyme-free treatment utilizing hydrogen peroxide and two ionic oxidizable salts, iodide and thiocynate. They demonstrated these complexes produce bactericidal reactive oxygen and iodine species without a peroxidase enzyme.

The group then tested the abilities of the novel treatment on a variety of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacterial strains, including MRSA, in both cell suspensions and biofilms. They discovered that the therapy caused rapid bacterial death in all tested strains, both in biofilms and planktonic cells.

The team also investigated whether bacteria could readily develop resistance to the novel treatment, discovering that after serial passages the strains did not develop resistance over time.

Use of this newly-developed treatment may provide an effective and efficient method for disinfecting surfaces, and removing biofilm contamination, in addition to potentially being applied directly to treat infected wounds.

O’Flaherty concluded: “We will need to assess the safety and suitability of the complexes for use in, or on, humans. We also need to develop delivery systems to deploy the treatment in a variety of settings that are currently affected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

Sources: Tonoyan L, Fleming GTA, McCay PH, Friel R & O’Flaherty V. Antibacterial Potential of an Antimicrobial Agent Inspired by Peroxidase-Catalyzed Systems. Front. Microbiol. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2017.00680 (2017) (Epub ahead of print); www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-05/f-bak042517.php

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