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TAU, US researchers develop strategy to fight bacteria
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
01/27/2011
Breakthrough to fight resistant bacteria could lead to new generation of antibiotics.
 
Tel Aviv University chemistry researchers claim to be the first to have developed a technique that neutralizes the ability of bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics, according to a paper just published in the journal Organic Biomolecular Chemistry by Dr. Micha Fridman and partners at the University of Michigan.

The scientists took advantage of a protein that gives bacteria resistance and used it to create new derivatives that the pathogen cannot neutralize. The development will be presented at a seminar on Thursday at TAU’s School of Chemistry for pupils from high schools around the country.

One of the biggest problems in fighting infectious diseases is that as time goes by and antibiotics are widely used (and sometimes misused), they lose their ability to kill bacteria that develop mechanisms to neutralize the drugs.

Fridman, along with Dr. Silvie Garneau-Tsodikova and colleagues in the US, wrote of their advance, which can lead to the development of new antibiotics that can fight resistant bacteria, including those that are common in hospital wards.

They focused on a antibiotic family called aminoglycosides – including Tobramycin and Paromomycin – which are meant to kill off bacteria that have developed resistance.

Fridman explained that “the bacteria know how to identify antibiotics via enzymes. Using a chemical change at a suitable site in the drug, they neutralize its activity. Our idea was to bind a chemical group to the specific location in the drug and – using this strategy – neutralize the bacteria with the enzyme. In our present and previous studies, we have developed chemical and biochemical techniques to block the location in the antiobiotic that the enzyme changes and thus creates resistance.”

He added that this activity is advantageous because the site is blocked, preventing the bacteria from neutralizing the new antibiotics, and the material bound to the antibiotics makes it possible to destroy the bacteria effectively.

The researchers have managed to create a number of molecules that will serve as an archetype for new antibiotics that they have developed and to test the influences of a wide variety of bacteria, including resistant pathogens. The aim of the work is to extend the period during which existing antibiotics function by suiting them chemically and coping with resistant mechanisms in virulent bacteria.

Fridman said he believed it was the first time in which a bacterium’s mechanism against antibiotics has been used to develop the new types of antibiotics.

“This is an additional and important step in producing new strategies for preparing future generations of antibiotics as weapons against resistant bacteria. This is important because bacterial infections are still a leading cause of death in our time.”
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