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Researchers Find A Chink In The Molecular Armor Of Killer Hospital Bacteria

There’s new hope for of an antibiotic that can put down a or superbug linked to the deaths of hundreds of around the world.

Researchers from the University of Alberta-based Alberta Glycomics Centre found a chink in the molecular armour of the pathogen . The bacteria first appeared in the 1970′s and in the last decade it developed a resistance to most .

U of A microbiologist Mario Feldman identified a mechanism that allows Acinetobacter baumannii to cover its surface with molecules knows as glycoproteins.

Feldman and his team then discovered that if the superbug cannot produce glycoproteins they become less virulent and less capable of forming biofilms, which protect the bacteria from antibiotics.

Feldman says more work is required to understand how the bacteria produces glycoproteins. The researchers say that will enable future development of drugs to interrupt the production of glycoproteins, reducing the bacteria’s ability to shield it from antibiotics.

Acinetobacter baumannii is a particularly insidious and contagious that has plagued hospitals around the world. It spreads from one person to another by physical contact. The bacteria can live on hard surfaces for several days and can cling to hospital equipment like catheter tubes and inhalers. Acinetobacter baumannii is also spread by coughing and sneezing.

Hospital patients whose immune systems are already worn down are the most susceptible to Acinetobacter baumannii. It infects wounds and can spread to the lungs, blood and brain.

Feldman is a principal investigator for the Alberta Glycomics Centre at the U of A. He was assisted by U of A graduate students Jeremy Iwashkiw and Brent Weber along with research colleagues in Ottawa, Austria and Australia. Their work was published in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

Source

University of Alberta