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

Anti-cancer drugs may hold key to overcoming antimalarial drug resistance

September 20, 2018
Scientists have found a way to boost the efficacy of the world's most powerful antimalarial drug with the help of chemotherapy medicines, according to new research published in the journal Nature Communications.

Researchers discover influenza virus doesn't replicate equally in all cells

September 19, 2018
The seasonal flu is caused by different subtypes of Influenza A virus and typically leads to the death of half a million people each year. In order to better understand this virus and how it spreads, University of Minnesota ...

Flu season forecasts could be more accurate with access to health care companies' data

September 19, 2018
In an era when for-profit companies collect a wealth of data about us, new research from The University of Texas at Austin shows that data collected by health care companies could—if made available to researchers and public ...

Drugs that stop mosquitoes catching malaria could help eradicate the disease

September 18, 2018
Researchers have identified compounds that could prevent malaria parasites from being able to infect mosquitoes, halting the spread of disease.

Vaccine opt-outs dropped slightly when California added more hurdles

September 18, 2018
In response to spiking rates of parents opting their children out of vaccinations that are required to enroll in school—and just before a huge outbreak of measles at Disneyland in 2014—California passed AB-2109. The law ...

New evidence of a preventative therapy for gout

September 17, 2018
Among patients with cardiovascular disease, it's a common complaint: a sudden, piercing pain, stiffness or tenderness in a joint that lasts for days at a time with all signs pointing to a gout attack. Gout and cardiovascular ...

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.