In brief

May 2016   Comments

New tool to combat antibiotic resistance

A University of Saskatchewan research team has discovered a way to prevent bacteria from developing resistance to antibiotics, potentially helping to blunt the edge of a looming threat to public health around the world. In a study, published in Cell Chemical Biology, the researchers looked at the SOS response, which happens when bacteria stop their normal cycle to repair their DNA after being attacked by antibiotics. The process is quite error prone, so there are a lot of mutations; the response allows the bacteria to pick up genes from other bacteria in a process called horizontal gene transfer. Since there are millions of bacteria, there are bound to be a few whose mutations make them resistant to antibiotics. These resistant bacteria survive and multiply.

The team looked at the RecA enzyme, which turns the SOS response on, and the LexA enzyme, which keeps it turned off. The researchers developed compounds that inhibit the RecA on switch, to block horizontal gene transfer, reduce mutations and make antibiotics more effective. The study results suggest the inhibitors should be useful with a broad spectrum of antibiotics.

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