Health Key to ‘superbug’ antibiotic resistance discovered

Key to ‘superbug’ antibiotic resistance discovered

The mechanism by which the potentially deadly superbug ‘Golden Staph’ evades antibiotic treatment has been discovered in an international study led by Monash University, providing the first important clues on how to counter antibiotic resistance.

‘Superbugs’ are bacteria that are resistant to commonly used antibiotics, presenting a global health threat. Researchers from Monash’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) are collaborating with Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, and the NTU Institute of Structural Biology in Singapore to find a solution.

The Monash BDI researchers have identified the first important clues on how to ‘retool’ antibiotics to counter how bacteria evades the life-saving drugs.

The researchers were able to image, at the molecular level, the changes the take place in superbugs that have become resistant modern antibiotics. It was the first time such changes have been imaged.

Examining bacterial samples of antibiotic-resistant Golden Staph taken from a hospital patient, they compared data of a non-resistant strain with their counterparts overseas.

“Using the combined data we could rationalise how the bacteria escapes drug treatment by a really important hospital antibiotic and describe in molecular detail how it becomes like a superbug,” said Monash BDI scientist and lead researcher Dr Matthew Belousoff.

“The bacteria mutates or evolves to change the shape of the molecule to which the antibiotic would bind so the drug can no longer fit there,” Dr Belousoff said.

“Knowing what your enemy is doing is the first step to the next phase of new drug design,” he said.

“We’ve developed a technique that others can use that might help us speed up the arms race of antibiotic development.”

Dr Belousoff said Monash BDI researchers are now using this new tool to investigate other drug-resistant bacteria.

Read more about this breakthrough discovery here. Story credit: Monash University newsroom.

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