Superbugs' sticky fingers stopped in fight against antibiotic resistance

August 3, 2016, Fresh Science

Disarming the superbugs resistant to antibiotics is the Holy Grail in the global fight against a pandemic predicted to kill more people than all cancers combined in the next few decades.

New research has found a way to disarm the infecting superbug, also known as E. coli ST131, rendering it harmless.

Painful urinary tract infections are very common, particularly in women, babies and the elderly. Around one in two women and one in 20 men will get a in their lifetime.

"My research has devised a strategy to stop the superbugs by identifying their essential weapons so they can be blocked and left harmless," says Dr Sohinee Sarkar, a postdoctoral researcher at the Queensland University of Technology's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation.

"In this way, we can treat the infection without using antibiotics that can create more and more resistant bacteria."

Dr Geoff Garrett, Queensland's Chief Scientist says it's great to see Queensland's early career researchers tackling such significant health issues.

"Antibiotics are such a great innovation but the rapidly evolving resistance is quite frightening" he says.

Sohinee is one of ten 2016 Queensland Fresh Science finalists and her one minute explanation of her research won the "People's Award" at the Fresh Science public event in Brisbane.

E. coli ST131 superbugs have numerous finger-like projections over their surface, which help them cling to the urinary tract walls and not get washed out when urine passes.

When E. coli ST131 use these fingers to stick to the urinary tract, they can clump together into a 'biofilm' and cause infection. They can also climb up into the kidneys and enter the blood.

"I've found that if we can stop these 'sticky fingers' from working then the E. coli can't form the biofilms that cause infections," Dr Sarkar says.

"This is very exciting as drugs that stop these sticky fingers are already being developed. Work by our group and our collaborators have shown that these drugs can treat acute urinary tract infections in laboratory studies."

The next step are clinical trials, but Dr Sakar is confident that drugs effective against E. coli ST131 will be available sometime within the next 10 years.

"This is a huge step in our war on these superbugs that are becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics," she says.

Explore further: Second US patient identified with super-resistant bacteria

Related Stories

Second US patient identified with super-resistant bacteria

June 28, 2016
A second US patient has been infected with a superbug that is highly resistant to last-resort antibiotics, scientists said Monday.

Antibiotic-resistant strain of E. coli increasing among older adults and residents of nursing homes

March 12, 2013
Antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli (E. coli) continues to proliferate, driven largely by expansion of a strain of E. coli know as sequence type ST131. A new study points to hospitals and long-term care facilities (LTCF) ...

Antibiotic resistance in children is high and associated with previous antibiotic use

March 15, 2016
Antibiotic resistance in children with urinary infections is high and could render some antibiotics ineffective as first-line treatments, warns a study published by The BMJ today.

Recommended for you

Kids with rare rapid-aging disease get hope from study drug

April 24, 2018
Children with a rare, incurable disease that causes rapid aging and early death may live longer if treated with an experimental drug first developed for cancer patients, a study suggests.

Commonly prescribed heartburn drug linked to pneumonia in older adults

April 24, 2018
Researchers at the University of Exeter have found a statistical link between pneumonia in older people and a group of medicines commonly used to neutralise stomach acid in people with heartburn or stomach ulcers. Although ...

Early treatment for leg ulcers gets patients back on their feet

April 24, 2018
Treating leg ulcers within two weeks by closing faulty veins improves healing by 12 per cent compared to standard treatment, according to new findings.

Research finds new mechanism that can cause the spread of deadly infection

April 20, 2018
Scientists at the University of Birmingham have discovered a unique mechanism that drives the spread of a deadly infection.

Selection of a pyrethroid metabolic enzyme CYP9K1 by malaria control activities

April 20, 2018
Researchers from LSTM, with partners from a number of international institutions, have shown the rapid selection of a novel P450 enzyme leading to insecticide resistance in a major malaria vector.

Low-cost anti-hookworm drug boosts female farmers' physical fitness

April 19, 2018
Impoverished female farm workers infected with intestinal parasites known as hookworms saw significant improvements in physical fitness when they were treated with a low-cost deworming drug. The benefits were seen even in ...

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.