Researchers at Monash University in Australia and Harvard University have developed a new treatment for infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. To achieve this, they attached a chemoattractant to an antibiotic drug molecule, meaning that it attracts neutrophils to the site of an infection and primes them to kill the bacteria. The two-pronged technique could give clinicians an edge for a variety of treatment-resistant infections.
Treatment-resistant bacteria are a growing problem. New antibiotics are thin on the ground, and our current stock of treatments is becoming less effective as new resistant bacterial strains emerge. Without significant research efforts, eventually we won’t have any effective anti-bacterial treatments, which will have drastic consequences for patient outcomes.
Thankfully, some researchers are rising to the challenge, and this latest technology combines existing antibiotics with an immunotherapy. Immunotherapies are something we traditionally consider as an anti-cancer strategy, but our immune system is also a key defender against bacterial infection, making it a powerful ally in the fight against resistant bacteria.
“When looking at how our immune system can fight bacteria there are two important aspects we look at,” said Jennifer Payne, a researcher involved in the study, in a Monash University announcement. “The first is our ability to entrap bacterial cells and kill them. The second is the signals – the chemoattractants – calling for more neutrophils, white blood cells which lead the immune system’s response to resolve infection.”
This new approach involves attaching a chemoattractant to a common antibiotic called vancomycin. The role of the chemoattractant is to call for neutrophils, one of the white blood cells responsible for killing bacteria in the body, to gather around the infection site. Some bacteria can avoid detection by immune cells, but the team’s technology aims to alert the immune system to the presence of such bacteria, and prime it to kill them.
“We’ve been working on using dual-function antibiotic-chemoattractant ‘hybrids’, which improve the recruitment of neutrophils and increase the engulfing and killing of the bacteria,” said Payne. “Microfluidics was ground-breaking for this research, as it allowed us to generate an infection-on-a-chip to monitor the recruitment of human immune cells, and observe in real-time how our immunotherapeutic enhances their ability to kill MRSA. Just like what would happen in our body”
So far, the research team is focused on developing a treatment for golden staph infections, a particularly problematic treatment-resistant bacterium, but the approach may be useful for a wide variety of other infections.
“By stimulating our powerful immune system in this way with the immunotherapeutic antibiotic, we’ve shown in mouse models that the treatment is 2-fold more effective than just using the antibiotic alone at one-fifth lower dose,” said Max Cryle, another researcher involved in the study. “This very promising new avenue of research is bringing a lot of potential benefits to the ever-increasing threat of drug-resistant superbugs.”
Here’s a video about the technology:
Study in Nature Communications: Antibiotic-chemoattractants enhance neutrophil clearance of Staphylococcus aureus
Via: Monash University