A possible alternative to antibiotics

November 4, 2014
Credit: Eric Erbe, Christopher Pooley, Wikipedia

Scientists from the University of Bern have developed a novel substance for the treatment of severe bacterial infections without antibiotics, which would prevent the development of antibiotic resistance.

Ever since the development of penicillin almost 90 years ago, antibiotics have remained the gold standard in the treatment of bacterial infections. However, the WHO has repeatedly warned of a growing emergence of bacteria that develop . Once antibiotics do no longer protect from , a mere pneumonia might be fatal.

Alternative therapeutic concepts which lead to the elimination of bacteria, but do not promote resistance are still lacking.

A team of international scientists has tested a novel substance, which has been developed by Eduard Babiychuk and Annette Draeger from the Institute of Anatomy, University of Bern in Switzerland. This compound constitutes a novel approach for the treatment of bacterial infections: the scientists engineered artificial nanoparticles made of lipids, "" that closely resemble the membrane of host cells. These liposomes act as decoys for bacterial toxins and so are able to sequester and neutralize them. Without toxins, the bacteria are rendered defenseless and can be eliminated by the cells of the host's own immune system. The study will be published in Nature Biotechnology Nov 2.

Artificial bait for bacterial toxins

In clinical medicine, liposomes are used to deliver specific medication into the body of patients. Here, the Bernese scientists have created liposomes which attract bacterial toxins and so protect host cells from a dangerous toxin attack.

"We have made an irresistible bait for . The toxins are fatally attracted to the liposomes, and once they are attached, they can be eliminated easily without danger for the host cells", says Eduard Babiychuk who directed the study.

"Since the bacteria are not targeted directly, the liposomes do not promote the development of ", adds Annette Draeger. Mice which were treated with the liposomes after experimental, fatal septicemia survived without additional antibiotic therapy.

Explore further: New way to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria: Target human cells instead

More information: Brian D. Henry, Daniel R. Neill, Katrin Anne Becker, Suzanna Gore, Laura Bricio-Moreno, Regan Ziobro, Michael J. Edwards, Kathrin Mühlemann, Jörg Steinmann, Burkhard Kleuser, Lukasz Japtok, Miriam Luginbühl, Heidi Wolfmeier, André Scherag, Erich Gulbins, Aras Kadioglu, Annette Draeger & Eduard B. Babiychuk: "Engineered liposomes sequester bacterial exotoxins and protect from severe invasive infections in mice," Nature Biotechnology, 2.11.2014, DOI: 10.1038/nbt.3037

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10 comments

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Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (5) Nov 04, 2014
Lipid bilayers, can you say surfactant soap for the cell?

It is amazing that, again, what was past (surfactant soap) is future against infections mitigated by cleanliness and handwashing with soap.
SoylentGrin
5 / 5 (8) Nov 04, 2014
Lipid bilayers, can you say surfactant soap for the cell?


Cells *are* lipid bilayers. This approach of putting out decoy cells to soak up the bacterial toxins is nothing like how soap works.
cjn
5 / 5 (3) Nov 04, 2014
An outstanding and novel approach!
EyeNStein
not rated yet Nov 04, 2014
What kind of dose do you need to make this a preferred target to natural cell walls?
hoboboxer
5 / 5 (2) Nov 04, 2014
Very interested to see how this technique pans out. Antibiotic resistance is an incredibly urgent and underestimated foe. There is currently a UK Longitude Prize of £10m up for grabs to anyone who can help solve this.

If anyone is curious, there is a neat VICE documentary about biological research in Panama that details a species of ants that have used their own chemicals to do this job, unhindered for millions of years.
nickmaxell
1.5 / 5 (2) Nov 04, 2014
Hmm I see a problem there as only the toxins are targeted - what about the bacteria producing them? - as a shortstop intervention it is brilliant but are the bacteria then left to the Imunesystem alone? - In a person with depleted immuneresponse this could become an uphill battle - getting rid of resistances this way is brilliant dont get me wrong
Shabs42
5 / 5 (3) Nov 05, 2014
Hmm I see a problem there as only the toxins are targeted - what about the bacteria producing them? - as a shortstop intervention it is brilliant but are the bacteria then left to the Imunesystem alone? - In a person with depleted immuneresponse this could become an uphill battle - getting rid of resistances this way is brilliant dont get me wrong


You literally had to read one more sentence.

Without toxins, the bacteria are rendered defenseless and can be eliminated by the cells of the host's own immune system.
heymail
not rated yet Nov 05, 2014
Although the bacteria are not directly affected, a product of their genome is. Would this not create a selective pressure against those gene products->genes->individual? Following that would it then leave a void for those bacteria whose proteins aren't targeted?

I guess the better question would be is what is the relationship between the toxin(s) produced, individual bacteria viability and communal viability in a human host. The question I would ask myself is if the bacteria can have their energy devoted to developing these toxins, just to have them rendered useless, why then would they continue to produce them in the first place? Are they necessary for survival since they ARE devoting cellular energy/resources to creating these proteins. There must be at least some selection bias towards promoting those bacteria who mutate away from the selective pressure.
erson
Nov 05, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
neilcpaul
not rated yet Nov 05, 2014
Are you not still exposed to bacterial resistance? I thought the bacteria could potentially mutate a divergence from liposomes? If so, it might become amplified using this method.

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