Rainforest plant combats multi-resistant bacterial strains

February 20, 2012

Aggressive infections in hospitals are an increasing health problem worldwide. The development of bacterial resistance is alarming. Now a young Danish scientist has found a natural substance in a Chilean rainforest plant that effectively supports the effect of traditional treatment with antibiotics.

PhD Jes Gitz Holler from the University of Copenhagen discovered in a research project a compound that targets a particular resistance mechanism in yellow staphylococci. The development of resistance in these specific bacteria is extremely rapid. that do not respond to treatment have already been found in the USA and Greece.

"I have discovered a in a Chilean avocado plant that is active in combination treatment with traditional antibiotics. have an efflux pump in their bacterial membrane that efficiently pumps out antibiotics as soon as they have gained access. I have identified a natural substance that inhibits the pumping action, so that the bacteria's defence mechanisms are broken down and the allowed to work," explains Jes Gitz Holler.

Jes Gitz Holler gathered specimens of the plant, which comes from the Persea family, in Chile, where the Mapuche people use the leaves of the avocado plant to heal wounds. The results have been published in Journal of Microbial Chemotherapy.

Synthetic chemistry for sustainable production

The so-called MIC value is the lowest possible concentration of an antibiotic that inhibits the bacterial growth. With his compound from the medicine chest of the Mapuche people, Jes Gitz Holler can lower the MIC value by at least eight times:

"The has great potential and perhaps in the longer term can be developed into an effective drug to combat resistant staphylococci. At this time there are no products on the market that target this same efflux-inhibitor mechanism. We want to improve the active substance using in the laboratory. That will also ensure sustainable production of a potential drug while protecting rainforest plants," continues Jes Gitz Holler.

Jes Gitz Holler emphasises that a commercial product will benefit the Mapuche people. At present there is a written agreement between the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences and the representative of the Mapuche people, Alfonso Guzmán, PhD, who helped procure the plant material.

Bacteria are winning the race

Yellow staphylococcusStaphylococcus aureus – is the most common cause of infection in wounds from an operation. However, the bacteria can be the cause of many diseases, from abscesses and food poisoning to life-threatening infections such as infective endocarditis and sepsis. The bacteria have been a major problem in hospitals worldwide since the 1940s, and up to now the drug industry has managed to develop new antibiotics in step with the increasingly aggressive behaviour of the bacteria. Unfortunately, that development appears to be turning:

"For all intents and purposes, the drug industry is not pursuing research into new antibiotics. It is simply too expensive relative to possible earnings, and there is more money in drugs to treat chronic diseases such as diabetes. Therefore, the bacteria are winning the race – resistance increases and treatment options are scarce. Research will have to find new paths and natural substances are one of them," emphasises Jes Gitz Holler.

Explore further: Honey can reverse antibiotic resistance

Related Stories

Honey can reverse antibiotic resistance

April 13, 2011
Manuka honey could be an efficient way to clear chronically infected wounds and could even help reverse bacterial resistance to antibiotics, according to research presented at the Society for General Microbiology's Spring ...

Computer simulations aid understanding of bacterial resistance against commonly used antibiotics

July 21, 2011
A recent study into the interactions between aminoglycoside antibiotics and their target site in bacteria used computer simulations to elucidate this mechanism and thereby suggest drug modifications.

Recommended for you

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

A sodium surprise: Engineers find unexpected result during cardiac research

July 20, 2017
Irregular heartbeat—or arrhythmia—can have sudden and often fatal consequences. A biomedical engineering team at Washington University in St. Louis examining molecular behavior in cardiac tissue recently made a surprising ...

Engineered liver tissue expands after transplant

July 19, 2017
Many diseases, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lead to liver failure. More than 17,000 Americans suffering from these diseases are now waiting for liver transplants, but significantly fewer livers are available.

Lunatic Fringe gene plays key role in the renewable brain

July 19, 2017
The discovery that the brain can generate new cells - about 700 new neurons each day - has triggered investigations to uncover how this process is regulated. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Jan and Dan Duncan ...

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

New animal models for hepatitis C could pave the way for a vaccine

July 19, 2017
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of hepatitis C—a disease that affects nearly 71 million people worldwide, causing cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated—it might be worth ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ziphead
not rated yet Feb 20, 2012
"Yellow staphylococcus Staphylococcus aureus"
... your latin-to-english translator may be broken...
Yellow staphylococcus -> Staphylococcus Flavus

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.