Promising new treatment joins the war on superbugs

December 1, 2015 by Kate Bourne, University of Adelaide

The fight against superbugs has been bolstered thanks to a promising new therapy discovered by University of Adelaide researchers.

Katharina Richter, a PhD student from the University's Discipline of Surgery, and the Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Surgery Department at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (TQEH) have developed a treatment which can be applied at the site of an infection, releasing compounds that are expected to destroy .

"Many people have experience with antibiotics being ineffective at alleviating the symptoms of an infection, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are becoming increasingly concerning," says Ms Richter, who is based at the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research and is working alongside leading University of Adelaide ENT surgeon, Professor Peter-John Wormald.

"Severe and present as a cluster of bacterial cells covered in a slimy matrix (biofilms). Biofilms act like an armour and protect the bacteria from the immune system and medications – the thicker the biofilm, the less likely antibiotics will work.

"Due to the spread of antibiotic resistance, millions of people suffer and die from devastating and recurring biofilm infections, like endocarditis, chronic wounds, cystic fibrosis or osteomyelitis," she says.

Ms Richter says her new treatment captures the food source required for bacteria to survive and grow.

"I've identified pathways which are essential for bacterial growth and survival," says Ms Richter.

"From this finding, I've discovered how to attack biofilms with two compounds that are not based on antibiotics. The first compound depletes nutrients from bacteria, leaving the cells vulnerable, while the second kills the bacteria.

"And, because this treatment works differently to antibiotics, we haven't faced any resistant bacteria yet," she says.

Ms Richter's research is specifically looking at how to combat chronic sinus infections, which are highly prevalent and affect people of all ages.

"One in six Australians suffers from a chronic infection of the sinuses and the primary goal of my PhD research is to improve medical therapies for the treatment of severe and recurring sinus infections," says Ms Richter.

"My results have been very promising and show that this combination therapy is an efficient and safe way to kill bacterial biofilms. And based on my research, TQEH ENT Surgery Department will commence the first human trial next year.

"The trial will combine the two compounds in a drug-delivery device to aid wound healing and combat disease causing bacteria.

"A successful clinical trial will hopefully lead us to further refine the treatment so it can eventually be used to treat people suffering from a broad range of chronic infections," she says.

Explore further: Drug-resistant bacteria carried by nursing home patients focus of study

Related Stories

Drug-resistant bacteria carried by nursing home patients focus of study

November 30, 2015
A Rhode Island Hospital and The Miriam Hospital study found that a small percentage of nursing home patients carrying multi drug-resistant bacteria are admitted to hospitals without showing symptoms caused by the bacteria. ...

Scientists opens black box on bacterial growth in cystic fibrosis lung infection

October 18, 2014
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have shown for the first time how bacteria can grow directly in the lungs of Cystic fibrosis patients, giving them the opportunity to get tremendous insights into bacteria behavior ...

Bacteria shown to suppress their antibiotic-resistant cousins

May 12, 2015
Researchers studying a dangerous type of bacteria have discovered that the bacteria have the ability to block both their own growth and the growth of their antibiotic-resistant mutants. The discovery might lead to better ...

Recommended for you

Deadly Rift Valley fever: New insight, and hope for the future

July 19, 2018
Health control measures alone could be ineffective in the long term fight against the deadly Rift Valley fever which affects both humans and animals, a new study in the journal PNAS reports.

New guidelines to diagnose, manage rare endocrine disorders

July 19, 2018
International guidelines have been published for the first time to help doctors around the globe diagnose and manage patients with a very rare set of endocrine diseases known as pseudohypoparathyroidism and its related disorders, ...

Overuse of antibiotics not what the doctor ordered

July 19, 2018
With increased use of antibiotics worldwide linked to growing antibiotic resistance, a world-first study co-authored by a QUT researcher has highlighted the growing impact of non-prescription supply of antibiotics in community ...

Alcohol-related cirrhosis deaths skyrocket in young adults

July 18, 2018
Deaths from cirrhosis rose in all but one state between 1999-2016, with increases seen most often among young adults, a new study shows.

Hidden blood in feces may signal deadly conditions

July 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Even if it's not visible to the naked eye, blood in the stool can be serious—a sign of a potentially fatal disease other than colon cancer, new research suggests.

Childhood abuse linked to greater risk of endometriosis, study finds

July 17, 2018
Endometriosis, a painful condition that affects one in 10 reproductive-age women in the U.S., has been linked to childhood physical and sexual abuse, according to findings published today in the journal Human Reproduction.

0 comments

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.