The global issue of antibiotic resistance has recently had significant media coverage as a result of a report conducted by the World Health Organisation that stated resistance is becoming an increasingly prevalent issue. However, this may all be in the past as a result of a breakthrough by researchers at the University of East Anglia.

Algae and bacteria in Scanning Electron Microscope
Photo: SecretDisc

Researchers studied gram-negative bacteria, a specific class of bacteria defined by their cellular barrier composition that are particularly prone to drug resistance. The outer membrane of such bacteria is a key factor in resistance to antibiotics and researchers discovered the mechanism for how its building blocks (lipopolysaccharides) are transported to the bacterial surface. This discovery is predicted to lead to a new generation of drugs that specifically target the bacterial defensive membranes. As a result the drugs would be effective even to so called “super-bugs”.

Prof Changjiang Dong, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “We have identified the path and gate used by the bacteria to transport the barrier building blocks to the outer surface. Importantly, we have demonstrated that the bacteria would die if the gate is locked.”

He added: “Because new drugs will not need to enter the bacteria itself, we hope that the bacteria will not be able to develop drug resistance in future.”

The prospect of antibiotic resistance becoming less of a threat is an exciting one. It is clear that this is a vital stepping stone in achieving this goal. The paper, “Structural basis for outer membrane lipopolysaccharide insertion” was published in the journal Nature on June 18, 2014.

For further information on the threat of antibiotic resistance see the Concrete article “Antibiotics: a luxury of the past?“.