MEDICINE AND HEALTH

Can more lives be saved by allowing drug-resistant bacteria to survive?


Experiments carried out by the University of Southern Denmark. Image credit: EMIL RYGE

Antibiotic resistance is considered a “ticking time bomb” for public health.

WHO predicts that by 2050, more people will die from infection than from cancer – including infections that people think are harmless, infections that occur on or on wounds, or cystitis.

Bacteria are good at adapting to the environment. When their existence is threatened, they mutate into a new, improved version that is no longer threatened by antibiotics. As a result, many pathogenic bacteria today are resistant to antibiotics.

“That’s bacteria, they can always find a way!” Of course, there will also be resistance. That’s how evolution works. Birgitte Kallipolitis, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Southern Denmark.

The “gift” of fatty acids

Some bacteria are resistant to several different antibiotics, hence the name multi-resistance. Examples include Staphylococcus, Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas and Escherichia coli. If left untreated, they can lead to fatal infections.

Can you find a way to fight or neutralize bacteria that mutate forever? This is the dream of biologists all over the world.

In recent years, Kallipolitis and his team have been working on a special fatty acid that exhibits some interesting phenomena in the context of fighting mutant bacteria. They used Listeria as a bacterial model to test the effects of these fatty acids. And elsewhere in the world, there are sciences that use Salmonella and cholera bacteria for similar tests.

The “interesting thing” about these fatty acids is that they not only kill Listeria in the lab, but also “shut down” their ability to infect and spread infections.

Kallipolitis’s experiments have shown that fatty acids have an antibacterial effect, i.e. they can kill Listeria. It may sound like a problem, but generally the next thing will be mutation: trying to kill the bacteria will only mutate into a new, resistant version.

And that’s the “special gift” of fatty acids: they can make drug-resistant bacteria harmless and not infect at all.

“So, drug-resistant bacteria are no longer bacteria that we have to kill.” Instead, we want to prevent it from spreading and making people sick. Kallipolitis explained.

“Turn off bacterial toxicity”

The concept of making a disease-carrying bacterium incapable of spreading, or making it no longer pathogenic, means “turning off its toxicity.”

“Turning off the bacterium’s toxicity prevents it from producing proteins like adhesins and invaders.” Bacteria need these proteins to attach to the cell to get into the cell. “If Listeria can’t get into the cells, it can’t spread and infection doesn’t occur.” ”

In their experiments, Listeria monocytogenes would only be harmless if the toxicity was turned off. When they are no longer exposed to fatty acids that shut down their toxicity, they regain their ability to spread.

Still, Kallipolitis says it can still provide additional help for patients coping with infections. Antitoxic drugs or supplements are good for preventing infections, especially for the elderly and frail people.

The fatty acids studied by Kallipolitis and collaborators are medium free fatty acids and long free fatty acids. “We pay special attention to free fatty acids, palm oleic acid and lauric acid in items such as nuts, seeds, plants and milk.” In experiments, she said, they all showed antiviral effects.

However, she said that eating nuts and seeds containing palmenoic acid and lauric acid does not achieve antiviral effects.

Further research is needed

To achieve antiviral effects, Kallipolitis says fatty acids must be free-form, which is not normally found in foods. Although free fatty acids can be purchased as supplements, most of these fatty acids are locked in and not free-form.

Scientists do not yet know whether the antiviral effect can be achieved by eating free fatty acids. “Perhaps these fatty acids were metabolized before they reached the ‘battlefield’ of the gut system, where they were going to fight many resistant bacteria.” If so, she explained, it would require pharmacists or chemists to find ways to transport fatty acids to the scene of the battle.

The desired special dietary supplements or medications are not immediately within reach and further research is needed. Next, Kallipolitis said they will test the anti-toxic effects of these fatty acids in a laboratory system similar to the human gut system. “We’re going to add Listeria and see if the fatty acids make them non-toxic.” Kallipolitis said that if this approach works, experiments will continue to be conducted in mice, eventually making it suitable for the prevention and control of human bacterial infections. (Source: China Science Daily Jinnan)

Related paper information:

https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2022.897682

https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2022.895942



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