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New Protein Detonates 'Superbugs' From Within

Scientists find novel way to kill resistant bacteria

Antibiotic-resistant infections are on the rise, foiling efforts to reduce death rates in developing countries, where the uncontrolled use of antibiotics and poor sanitation are prevalent.

A new discovery by researchers at Tel Aviv University may strengthen efforts by the medical community to fight this looming pandemic. By sequencing the DNA of bacteria that are resistant to viral toxins, the investigators have identified novel proteins capable of preventing the growth of “superbugs.”

“Because bacteria and bacterial viruses have co-evolved over billions of years, we suspected the viruses might contain precisely the weapons necessary to fight the bacteria,” said lead investigator Professor Udi Qimron. “So we systematically screened for such proteins in the bacterial viruses for over two and a half years.”

Using high-throughput DNA sequencing, the researchers located mutations in bacterial genes that resisted the toxicity of growth inhibitors produced by bacterial viruses. In this way, the team identified a small protein –– growth inhibitor gene product (Gp) 0.6 –– that specifically targets and inhibits the activity of a protein that maintains the structure of bacterial cells. Malfunction of this protein results in the rupture and death of bacterial cells.

“We hope our approach will be used to further identify new growth inhibitors and their targets across bacterial species and in higher organisms,” Qimron said.

The researchers are continuing their study of bacterial viruses in the hope of identifying compounds and processes that facilitate improved treatment of antibiotic-resistant bacteria using yet-uncharacterized proteins from bacterial viruses. They believe that further basic knowledge of the biology of bacterial viruses will eventually lead to breakthroughs in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Source: EurekAlert; January 28, 2015.


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