Bacteria are said to poison themselves

Bacteria are said to poison themselves

US research approach: bacteria should poison themselves

US researchers have developed a new approach to combat dangerous bacteria with their own weapons. They want to undo the mechanism that protects the pathogens from their own poisons.

The bacteria would kill themselves as soon as the protective mechanism can be overridden, the researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, USA explained in the current issue of the journal "Structure". Most pathogens use a kind of antidote to protect themselves from the toxins that they emit in the organism. If this antidote could be eliminated, the bacteria would perish on their own toxins, according to the US researchers.

Mechanism of protection of the bacteria against their own toxins In the course of their investigations, the researcher led by Craig Smith took a closer look at the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes and found out how the pathogen protects itself from its own toxins. Streptococcus pyogenes is an unpleasant contemporary. The bacteria settle in the tissue of the pharynx and can cause both acute invasive infections and non-invasive complications.Where the pathogen spreads, it distributes its toxins, which as tissue-dissolving enzymes damage and dissolve not only the red blood cells but also other cells . Scarlet fever, tonsillitis and throat infections are possible consequences of infection with Streptococcus pyogenes. In order to prevent your cells from being attacked by the tissue-dissolving poisons, the pathogen also produces an antidote that attaches itself to the proteins of the bacterial poison as a special protein molecule. In their view, the protective mechanism discovered by the US researchers offers a good approach for future bacterial control. If it were possible to develop an active ingredient that specifically switches off the antidote, the pathogens would destroy themselves. The new method could not only be used for Streptococcus pyogenes, but also for numerous other bacteria that protect themselves from their own toxins in the same way.

Specialized protein molecule acts as an antidote When investigating Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria, the US researchers discovered a highly specialized protein that is responsible for protecting the pathogen from its own poisons. This protein molecule is able to take two different forms and as soon as it hits the poison, it goes into a special structure to block the poisonous molecules, explained Craig Smith and colleagues. Future research should therefore aim to find a way to keep the antidote in its inactive form, the US researchers continue. Because then the poison could no longer be blocked and the bacteria would kill themselves. The scientists assessed their discovery as being particularly important for the development of new antibacterial drugs, since on the one hand "many other bacteria (...) use the same mechanism as Streptococcus pyogenes" and, on the other hand, due to the increasing number of multidrug-resistant pathogens, drugs with new mechanisms to fight the bacteria are urgently needed are needed.

Multi-resistant pathogens require new drugs The spread of multi-resistant pathogens, which are immune to almost all common antibiotics and are therefore difficult to treat, has increased significantly in recent years. They sometimes pose a serious problem, particularly in hospitals and inpatient care facilities. According to Craig Smith, in order to successfully fight the antibiotic-resistant bacteria, new drugs must be developed continuously. The study leader explained that there is a war between the bacteria and the patient's organism, in which the bacteria secrete toxins and the organism reacts via its immune system. To improve the chances of recovery, the infections are usually combated with antibiotics, Craig Smith continues. "But as more and more pathogens develop resistance to antibiotics, we have to go new ways," emphasized the expert. The US scientist believes that the findings now made offer a good starting point. (fp)

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