Plant kingdom provides two new candidates for the war on antibiotic resistance

June 20, 2016

Scientists have isolated peptides (strings of amino acids) with antibiotic effects on bacteria that spoil food and cause food poisoning, after turning to the plant kingdom for help in boosting our arsenal in the ongoing war against antibiotic resistance.

The scientists found two small peptides from widely cultivated crop species (one from broad beans and one from cowpea) that were especially effective.

Further work then confirmed that when these peptides were used together, and with a human peptide that is also an antimicrobial, their protective effects were beefed-up in a one-two antimicrobial punch.

Associate Professor and Head of Microbiology at Trinity College Dublin, Ursula Bond, led the team that has just published its research in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

She said: "There are two major advantages to these small peptides in that no resistance mechanisms have emerged yet, and in that they can be inexpensively synthesised in the lab. Initially, our aim was to identify peptides that provide protection against food-spoiling , but these peptides may also be useful as antibiotics against bacteria that cause serious human diseases."

The research team behind the discovery had previously isolated a human peptide that is a potent antimicrobial agent against many of the bacteria that spoil beer during industrial fermentation. Instead of screening for other human peptides with similar desired effects, the scientists scanned plant peptides databases and focused on the peptides whose structural blueprints were similar to the one with the desired characteristics.

Many of the most effective antibiotics are derived from proteins produced by plants, but there is a growing need to discover new therapeutic candidates as resistance is increasing in bacterial species that have major health and economic implications for society.

Professor Bond added: "We reasoned that natural found in many plants and plant seeds might be useful new antibiotics, because plants have evolved these systems to protect themselves against the billions of bacteria and fungi they interact with in the soil every day."

Explore further: A small molecule outclasses larger ones in combating drug-resistant bacteria that cause skin infections

More information: Joanna Kraszewska et al. Comparative analysis of the antimicrobial activities of plant defensin-like and ultrashort peptides against food-spoiling bacteria., Applied and Environmental Microbiology (2016). DOI: 10.1128/AEM.00558-16

Related Stories

Anti-antibiotics

July 22, 2013

Antimicrobial peptides are natural antibiotics found in all multicellular organisms. These molecules are viewed as potential drug candidates in the post-antibiotic era because widespread microbial resistance against them ...

Unlocking the genetic secrets of wheat

March 4, 2014

Scientists at Swinburne University of Technology have discovered how wheat seedlings defend themselves against bacteria, opening the door for food and health applications.

Recommended for you

New X-ray spectroscopy explores hydrogen-generating catalyst

November 22, 2017

Using a newly developed technique, researchers from Japan, Germany and the U.S. have identified a key step in production of hydrogen gas by a bacterial enzyme. Understanding these reactions could be important in developing ...

0 comments

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.