New York, April 7 (IANS) A new class of antibiotics, from an unconventional source which has a distinct way of killing bacteria, has been discovered which may help combat drug-resistant or hard-to-treat bacterial infections, according to scientists.
According to the World Health Organisation, antibiotic resistant is one of the biggest threats to global health today and a significant contributor to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs, and increased mortality.
The antibiotic called odilorhabdins, or ODLs, are produced by symbiotic bacteria found in soil-dwelling nematode worms that colonise insects for food.
The bacteria help to kill the insect and, importantly, secretes the antibiotic to keep competing bacteria away, said researchers from the University of Illinois (UIC) at Chicago and Nosopharm, a France-based biotechnology company.
To identify the antibiotic, the team screened 80 cultured strains of the bacteria for antimicrobial activity.
They found that ODLs act on the ribosome — the molecular machine of individual cells that makes the proteins it needs to function — of bacterial cells.
“Like many clinically useful antibiotics, ODLs work by targeting the ribosome,” said Yury Polikanov, Assistant Professor at the UIC.
“But ODLs are unique because they bind to a place on the ribosome that has never been used by other known antibiotics,” Polikanov added.
Further, the team found that when bound to the ribosome, the new antibiotic disrupts its ability to interpret and translate genetic code.
“When ODLs are introduced to the bacterial cells, they impact the reading ability of the ribosome and cause the ribosome to make mistakes when it creates new proteins,” said Alexander Mankin, Professor at the University.
“The bactericidal mechanism of ODLs and the fact that they bind to a site on the ribosome, not exploited by any known antibiotic, are very strong indicators that ODLs have the potential to treat infections that are unresponsive to other antibiotics,” Mankin noted.