The team at UT Austin developed the probes to identify the enzyme produced by some types of E. coli and pneumococcal bacteria that are resistant to treatment because of their ability to break down several common types of antibiotics, according to a news release.
In a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the researchers focused on the New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM) bacterial enzyme, aiming to create a molecule that glows when it comes into contact with the enzyme. The probes developed by the researchers, once added to a test tube, bind to the enzyme and begin to glow, offering an option for doctors to understand what kind of bacterial threat exists and select the most effective antibiotics for the patient.
Additionally, the chemical probe may help to find a different way to combat drug-resistant bacteria. Although there is no known clinically effective inhibitor for NDM-producing bacteria, the researchers believe the probe could help to find one. After the probe binds to the enzyme and begins to glow, if an effective inhibitor is introduced, the probe will be knocked loose and the glowing would cease.
NDM can potentially break down antibiotics in the penicillin, cephalosporin and carbapenem classes, and while other classes of antibiotics exist, the researchers say they carry more side effects, have more drug interactions and may be less available in some parts of the world.
“In response to antibiotic treatment, bacteria have evolved various mechanisms to resist that treatment, and one of those is to make enzymes that basically chew up the antibiotics before they can do their job,” UT Austin assistant professor of chemistry and leading researcher Emily Que said in the release. “The type of tool we developed gives us critical information that could keep us one step ahead of deadly bacteria.”
Researchers also found that the probe can be used to study nutritional immunity, a process that comes from the body’s production of proteins in response to an infection. Those proteins take all available metals in the body, such as the zinc required to make NDM, which makes the bacteria more susceptible to attack.
The study also examined a process called nutritional immunity, which comes from the human body’s production of proteins in response to an infection. The proteins snatch up all the available metals in the body, such as the zinc required to make NDM, rendering the bacteria more susceptible to attack.
“The evolution of this bacteria since its discovery in 2008 indicates that not only is it developing antibiotic resistance, it’s attempting to combat this natural human immune process. That’s particularly scary,” Que said.
Filed Under: Drug Discovery, Infectious Disease