Some bacteria resistant to antibiotics can be deadly, and this is why scientists have developed a new drug to find and kill them. Researchers at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania created a drug that will make the immune system do the job for it.
The Science Behind the “Immunobiotic”
The leader of the study published in the journal Cell Chemical Biology is Marcos Pires. He said that he was inspired by “the recent success of cancer immunotherapy.”
He and his team combined part of an existing antibiotic with a molecule that attracts the antibodies released by the immune system. The drug is called an “immunobiotic,” and it can target bacteria that lead to pneumonia and food poisoning and bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.
Just like cancer immunotherapy uses the power of the immune system to destroy cancer cells, the team wanted to see if they can use the immune system to help antibiotics work better.
“We anticipate the resistance would be slower to develop because of the double mode of activity – both traditional antimicrobial activity and the immunotherapy. It should provide fewer mechanisms to escape the actions of our agents,” explains Pires.
The World Health Organization considers some of the bacteria to be a high-priority if there are only a few drugs that work against them. So, Pires and his colleagues tested the drug on Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a cause of pneumonia in cancer patients, burns victims and cases of cystic fibrosis.
The team tested the drug on nematode worms infected with Pseudomonas, and the results showed that the drug could successfully detect and kill the bacteria. The drug sticks to the bacteria, damages it, and calls for antibodies to finish the job.
An Attractive Idea: ‘Recruiting’ Antibodies
Tim McHugh is a professor and director of the UCL Centre for Clinical Microbiology. He explains why using this technique is very good in wiping out bacteria:
“The idea of using a molecule which targets the outer membrane of bacteria to enhance their responsiveness to drugs or antibodies is very attractive.”
He added that bacteria would not easily become resistant to drugs if the immune system targets it, because even if they mutate, they cannot change our immune system.
Pires concludes that immunobiotics are a way to “recruit antibodies that humans already have, so the advantage is that you don’t have to vaccinate the patient.”
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere