Study IDs How Bacteria Develop Resistance

HAMILTON, Ontario, April 14 (UPI) — A team of Canadian and British scientists says it has identified the specific mechanism that triggers bacterial resistance to vancomycin.

The researchers — led by Professor Gerry Wright, director of the Michael DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University — said they determined for the first time how bacteria recognize and develop resistance to vancomycin — a powerful antibiotic used to treat superbug infections.

“Vancomycin is the antibiotic of last resort and is only given when all other treatments fail,” said Wright. “For years it was thought that resistance would be slow to emerge since vancomycin works in an unusual way. But with the widespread use of the drug to treat infections caused by the hospital superbug MRSA, it has become a serious clinical problem.”

MRSA is the short-form for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, a bacterial infection that’s highly resistant to some antibiotics, the scientists said.

Wright and his team studied the vancomycin-resistance mechanism and showed bacteria detect vancomycin itself.

“We have finally cracked the alarm system used by bacteria, and hopefully new antibiotics can be developed that don’t set it off,” said Mark Buttner, a study collaborator and senior scientist at the John Innes Center in Norwich, England.

The research appears in the early online edition of the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

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