Bacteria ‘disabler’ antibiotic silences resistant bugs for good

After 70 years, antibiotics are still the primary treatment for overcoming bacterial infections, but they are becoming less effective against resistant bugs that cause them, according to new research.

A microbiologist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) has argued that instead of killing the bacteria, disarming them would quash the disease without the worry of antibiotic resistance.

Ching-Hong Yang, associate professor of biological sciences, has developed a compound that shuts off the “valve” in a pathogen’s DNA that allows it to invade and infect.

The research is so promising that two private companies are testing it with an eye toward commercialization.

“We analyzed the genomic defense pathways in plants to identify all the precursors to infection,” says Yang.

“Then we used the information to discover a group of novel small molecules that interrupt one channel in the intricate pathway system.”

Yang and collaborator Xin Chen, a professor of chemistry at Changzhou University in China, have tested the compound on two virulent bacteria that affect plants and one that attacks humans.

They found it effective against all three and believe the compound can be applied to treatments for plants, animals and people.

The economic costs and health threats of antibiotic resistance have become so serious that the World Health Organization (WHO) this year dedicated World Health Day to call global attention to the issue.

The study has been published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

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