Ever since the invention of penicillin, doctors have used antibiotics to kill hostile bacteria and end infections, but over the past few decades we’ve seen strains of bacteria that are resistant to all the antibiotics doctors use. These so-called ‘superbugs’ present a serious threat to patients and to the public because we have nothing that can really counter them.
Researchers from Case Western Reserve University may have found a solution to this problem, and it doesn’t involve antibiotics at all. The researchers developed a method to cure sepsis—at least in mice—using small molecules called F12 and F19 to block the bacteria from doing any damage, which doesn’t require any antibiotics at all.
Typical antibiotics work by breaking up bacteria cell walls, which cause those bacteria to fall apart and die. These small F12 and F19 molecules the researchers discovered work a little differently. Instead of killing the bacteria, they bind to one of the bacteria’s proteins that plays an important role in toxin production, rendering it useless. Without that protein, the bacteria are harmless.
In tests in mice, the researchers found that 70 percent of untreated mice with sepsis died, but 100 percent of the mice treated with F12 or F19 survived. In addition, they found that adding those two molecules made regular antibiotics more effective, meaning even severe infections could be treated with a combination of F12 or F19 coupled with a low-strength antibiotic.
But the biggest advantage of F12 and F19 is that they don’t kill or even hurt the bacteria they interact with. The bacteria affected by these two molecules can continue living, but will simply stop producing toxins that make us sick. That means there won’t be any evolutionary incentive for the bacteria to develop resistances to them, which means F12 and F19 will last much longer than any antibiotic.
That’s good news for doctors, who are rapidly running out of ways to treat bacterial infections. It’ll take a long time for F12 and F19 to ever be used in humans, but this early research has some promising results. Perhaps with these two molecules, we might be able to fend off bacteria for a lot longer.
Source: Case Western Reserve University
Originally posted on Popular Mechanics