Toward a Rosetta Stone for Microbes' Secret Language

Dec 10, 2007
Toward a Rosetta Stone for Microbes’ Secret Language
Decoding the chemical language of bacteria will help researchers fight antibiotic-resistant infections and dangerous biofilms (shown) that foul medical implants. Credit: USDA

Scientists are on the verge of decoding the special chemical language that bacteria use to “talk” to each other, British researchers report in a commentary article that appeared in the November issue of ACS Chemical Biology, a monthly journal. That achievement could lead to new treatments for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including so-called superbugs that infect more than 90,000 people in the United States each year, they note.

David Spring, Martin Welch, and James T. Hodgkinson explain that researchers long have known that bacteria communicate with each other. Microbes release small molecules that enable millions of individuals in a population to coordinate their behavior.

Disease-causing bacteria use this language to decide when to infect a person or other host. Decoding the structure and function of compounds involved in this elaborate signaling process, known as “quorum sensing,” could lead to new medicines to block the signals and prevent infections.

The report describes development of a group of powerful compounds, called N-acylated homoserine lactone (AHL) analogues that are effective against a broad-range of bacterial types, including those that cause diseases in humans. These compounds are “some of the most potent synthetic modulators of quorum sensing” identified to date, they say.

In addition to showing promise for fighting antibiotic-resistant infections, the compounds may help prevent the growth of biofilms that foul medical implants and cause tooth decay and gum disease, the scientists note.

Source: American Chemical Society

Explore further: Liquid helium offers a fascinating new way to make charged molecules

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Amino acids key to new gold leaching process

Oct 24, 2014

Curtin University scientists have developed a gold and copper extraction process using an amino acid–hydrogen peroxide system, which could provide an environmentally friendly and cheaper alternative to ...

Researchers create designer 'barrel' proteins

Oct 23, 2014

Proteins are long linear molecules that fold up to form well-defined 3D shapes. These 3D molecular architectures are essential for biological functions such as the elasticity of skin, the digestion of food, ...

User comments : 0