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Bacteria killer: novel antibiotic found in tree bugs

Bacteria killer: novel antibiotic found in tree bugs


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Are tree bugs the saviors in the antibiotic crisis?

Tree bugs produce a bactericidal substance that is suitable as a basis for completely new antibiotics. Researchers from Switzerland deciphered a previously unknown mechanism by which the beetles protect themselves against bacteria. This mechanism could be used to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

A research team from the University of Zurich (UHZ) examined the natural substance thanatin, which is produced by tree bugs and is able to destroy the outer membrane of certain groups of bacteria and thus kill the germs. The researchers were able to decipher the underlying mechanism for the first time. On this basis, new types of antibiotics can be developed that work in a completely different way and thus avoid resistance. The study results were recently published in the scientific journal "Science Advances".

One of the greatest threats of the 21st century

Antibiotic resistance is increasing extremely worldwide and is an ever-increasing threat. The World Health Organization recently warned that 700,000 people are already dying from infections with resistant bacteria every year. These infectious diseases were curable well with antibiotics before the resistance spread. Against this background, researchers worldwide are working on new solutions to circumvent these resistances.

New classes of antibiotics from insect production

"Despite intensive efforts by science and industry, it has so far not been possible to find suitable targets for novel antibiotics," explains John A. Robinson from the Institute of Chemistry at UZH in a press release on the study results. This could change now: According to the researchers, the tree bug substance thanatin destroys the outer shell of gram-negative bacteria. These are a group of bacteria that have a thin, single-layer membrane.

Many pathogens are gram-negative bacteria

"This group of germs includes many dangerous pathogens such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which causes life-threatening lung infections, and pathogenic strains of the intestinal bacterium Escherichia coli," explains Robinson. Disease-causing intestinal bacteria cause serious infectious diseases with diarrhea as a key symptom, such as the EHEC infection.

Without a protective shield, the bacteria are stuck

As the research team reports, the natural antibiotic Thanatin from the North American tree bug Podisus maculiventris destroys the outer cell membrane of Gram-negative bacteria. This membrane acts as a protective shield that protects the cell from toxic substances. Without this protective cover, the bacteria are helplessly delivered to their surroundings and die.

How does Thanatin destroy the bacteria protection shield?

According to the researchers, the protective outer layer of the bacteria consists of a complex layer of fat-like and sugar-containing substances. These substances are called lipopolysaccharides. According to the experts, thanatin interrupts the transport of the building blocks that are required for the construction of the outer membrane. The affected transport route consists of a structure of seven different proteins, which form a kind of bridge on which the building materials are carried on to the cell envelope. "Thanatin blocks the interaction between the bridge proteins and thus prevents the formation of the bridge structure," explains the UHZ research team.

Completely new way of fighting bacteria

"This mechanism of action has been unprecedented and opens new perspectives for the development of future classes of antibiotics against dangerous germs," ‚Äč‚Äčsummarizes Robinson. This is the first proof that the inhibition of interactions between proteins can be used to specifically kill bacteria.

The active ingredient should be quickly brought to the next phase

The research team is currently looking for suitable candidates for a clinical trial together with an experienced industrial partner. "A novel antibiotic that targets Gram-negative pathogens would be an important addition to the development of much-needed antibacterial therapies," Robinson concluded. (vb)

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Video: An Introduction to Infectious Diseases. Malaria and Tuberculosis: Global Killers Part 1924 (October 2022).