Virus Enzymes Could Promote Human, Animal Health

August 31, 2009 By Laura McGinnis
Virus Enzymes Could Promote Human, Animal Health
Studies led by ARS biologist David M. Donovan have shown that enzymes from bacteriophages (like the one shown) can be used to fight multi-drug-resistant bacterial pathogens that affect animals and humans, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA. Image courtesy of Michael G. Rossmann, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Purdue University.

( -- Could viruses be good for you? Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have shown that enzymes from bacteria-infecting viruses known as phages could have beneficial applications for human and animal health.

Phage enzymes called endolysins attack bacteria by breaking down their cell walls. Unlike antibiotics, which tend to have a broad range, endolysins are comparatively specific, targeting unique bonds in the cell walls of their hosts. This is significant because it means non-target bacteria could be less likely to develop resistance to endolysins.

Researchers at the ARS Animal Biosciences and Biotechnology Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., in collaboration with federal, university and industry scientists, have developed and are patenting technology to create powerful by fusing from multiple cell-wall-degrading endolysins. Now the researchers are collaborating with biopharmaceutical companies to evaluate and further develop the technology.

Studies led by ARS biologist David M. Donovan show that phage enzymes could be used to wipe out multi-drug-resistant pathogens that affect both animals and humans, such as methicillin , also known as MRSA.

The scientists showed that the enzymes can knock out pathogens in biofilms, which are matrices of microorganisms that can attach to a variety of surfaces. Biofilms are resistant to antibiotics and contribute to many human infections.

In a related study, the scientists showed that using the endolysins lysostaphin and LysK in concert inhibited the growth of staphylococcal strains that cause mastitis in cattle and staph infections in humans.

This research was published recently in the journal Biotech International.

Provided by Agricultural Research Service

Explore further: Bacteria build walls to withstand antibiotics

Related Stories

Bacteria build walls to withstand antibiotics

November 1, 2005

Antibiotic resistant bacteria, which are proliferating in hospitals and causing major headaches for physicians, cheat death by finding ways to fortify their cell walls against the deadly drugs. The question is: how? New research ...

Possible pet-human bacteria link studied

March 22, 2006

Scientists at an international conference in Atlanta say they're investigating a possible link between antibiotic resistance in pets and pet owners.

New viruses to treat bacterial diseases

September 3, 2007

Viruses found in the River Cam in Cambridge, famous as a haunt of students in their punts on long, lazy summer days, could become the next generation of antibiotics, according to scientists speaking today at the Society for ...

New antibiotic beats superbugs at their own game

July 3, 2008

The problem with antibiotics is that, eventually, bacteria outsmart them and become resistant. But by targeting the gene that confers such resistance, a new drug may be able to finally outwit them. Rockefeller University ...

Energy-saving bacteria resist antibiotics

September 3, 2008

Bacteria save energy by producing proteins that moonlight, having different roles at different times, which may also protect the microbes from being killed. The moonlighting activity of one enzyme from the tuberculosis bacterium ...

Nanotechnology used to probe effectiveness of antibiotics

February 4, 2009

A group of researchers led by scientists from the London Centre for Nanotechnology, in collaboration with a University of Queensland researcher, have discovered a way of using tiny nano-probes to help understand how an antibiotic ...

Recommended for you

A better way to read the genome

October 9, 2015

UConn researchers have sequenced the RNA of the most complicated gene known in nature, using a hand-held sequencer no bigger than a cell phone.

Threat posed by 'pollen thief' bees uncovered

October 9, 2015

A new University of Stirling study has uncovered the secrets of 'pollen thief' bees - which take pollen from flowers but fail to act as effective pollinators - and the threat they pose to certain plant species.

Mapping the protein universe

October 9, 2015

To understand how life works, figure out the proteins first. DNA is the architect of life, but proteins are the workhorses. After proteins are built using DNA blueprints, they are constantly at work breaking down and building ...


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.