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: Study to aid rapid clean-ups after disastrous offshore oil and gas leaks

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Common weed revealed to diminish water pollution

Mar 13, 2015

Francisco Delgado Vargas, from the Autonomous University of Sinaloa (UAS), researches the use of the plant Typha domingensis in reducing bacterial contamination of water for agricultural use. This plant helps ...

How antibiotic pollution of waterways creates superbugs

Mar 12, 2015

Humans pollute the world with many chemicals and some of these affect living things, even at very low concentrations. Endocrine-disrupting compounds, which interfere with hormones, are a good example, but ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

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.