Researchers examine how bacteria become resistant to antibiotics

October 5, 2010

A study by two Florida State University biochemists makes an important contribution to science's understanding of a serious problem causing concern worldwide: the growing resistance of some harmful bacteria to the drugs that were intended to kill them.

Investigating exactly how bacteria learn to fend off prescribed to treat infections is the subject of new research by Assistant Professor Brian G. Miller of FSU's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and one of his graduate research assistants, Kevin K. Desai. They have found that bacteria are remarkably resilient to toxic substances, such as antibiotics, because bacteria have the innate ability to produce a large variety of proteins. Those proteins then are able to do things such as pump toxins out or alter toxins so that they can no longer kill the bacteria.

"Most of us take antibiotics to eliminate infections without considering what would happen if they failed to work," said Kevin Desai, a graduate research assistant in Florida State's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. "While treating bacterial infections has typically been as easy as swallowing a pill, researchers are apprehensive about the increasing frequency of infections that are resistant to antibiotics, and are searching for ways to regain the upper hand."

In their study, Miller and Desai learned that about 2 percent of all the proteins produced by the model bacterium E. coli can be linked to enabling resistance to a single toxin called bromoacetate. Their research also has implications in elucidating the function of specific proteins and understanding how bacteria in the environment can survive in the presence of toxic manmade chemicals such as pesticides.

A paper describing Desai and Miller's work was published this week in the prestigious journal . That paper is titled "Recruitment of Genes and Enzymes Conferring Resistance to the Nonnatural Toxin Bromoacetate."

"The recent rise of antibiotic resistance demonstrates that bacteria are capable of rapidly evolving evasive strategies," they wrote. "It also has exposed our lack of knowledge about the evolutionary processes leading to resistance."

Understanding the mechanisms by which evade environmental threats has direct relevance for understanding and combating the rise of antibiotic resistance, Desai and Miller added.

The techniques described in the paper will be highly useful for other researchers in the field because it will allow them to predict the resistance to specific antibiotics. Any resistance mechanisms identified could then be inhibited so that the antibiotics will retain their effectiveness.

Explore further: Protein clue to tailor-made antibiotics

Related Stories

Resistant gut bacteria will not go away by themselves

June 19, 2007

E. coli bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics will probably still be around even if we stop using antibiotics, as these strains have the same good chance as other bacteria of continuing to colonise the gut, ...

The structure of resistance

February 22, 2008

A team of scientists from the University Paris Descartes has solved the structure of two proteins that allow bacteria to gain resistance to multiple types of antibiotics, according to a report in EMBO reports this month. ...

Scientists discover how some bacteria survive antibiotics

April 30, 2008

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have discovered how some bacteria can survive antibiotic treatment by turning on resistance mechanisms when exposed to the drugs. The findings, published in the April 24 ...

Recommended for you

New polymer creates safer fuels

October 1, 2015

Before embarking on a transcontinental journey, jet airplanes fill up with tens of thousands of gallons of fuel. In the event of a crash, such large quantities of fuel increase the severity of an explosion upon impact. Researchers ...

Researchers print inside gels to create unique shapes

September 30, 2015

(—A team of researchers at the University of Florida has taken the technique of printing objects inside of a gel a step further by using a highly shear-rate sensitive gel. In their paper published in the journal ...

How a molecular motor untangles protein

October 1, 2015

A marvelous molecular motor that untangles protein in bacteria may sound interesting, yet perhaps not so important. Until you consider the hallmarks of several neurodegenerative diseases—Huntington's disease has tangled ...

Anti-aging treatment for smart windows

October 1, 2015

Electrochromic windows, so-called 'smart windows', share a well-known problem with rechargeable batteries – their limited lifespan. Researchers at Uppsala University have now worked out an entirely new way to rejuvenate ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Nov 29, 2010
Reliable supplier, rapid delivery, guarantee!

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.