Decrypted: This is how bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics

Breakthrough in research against antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance poses an ever greater threat worldwide. If more and more strains of bacteria become resistant, then curable diseases are becoming deadly threats. A German scientific team has now made a breakthrough in bacterial research. They were able to decipher how bacteria can protect themselves from antibiotics.

Researchers at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) were able to explain for the first time how the E. coli bacteria responsible for many diarrheal diseases defend themselves against antibiotics. According to the research team, this is an important step to prevent resistance. The study results were recently published in the renowned journal "Nature Communications".

Resistant bacteria can become a deadly threat

Bacteria that develop resistance to antibiotics are becoming a medical problem. As a survey by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) recently showed, antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest health concerns of Germans. If these resistances continue to increase as before, then many bacterial infectious diseases can be fatal. "This is a real threat," emphasizes Professor Dr. Milton T. Stubbs in a press release on the latest study results.

Education is extremely important

Stubbs has been studying resistance formation in bacteria for many years and underlines the urgent need to elucidate these resistance mechanisms. “Because only if we find out how resistance develops in the first place can we look for solutions to prevent it,” explains the professor.

The researchers looked very closely

The team of experts used X-ray crystallography for the examinations. This extremely precise process makes it possible to penetrate the so-called Ångström area. This area corresponds to the size of a ten billionth of a meter! The researchers report that individual atoms of this size are visible. In this way, they were able to observe proteins, which ultimately led to the elucidation of resistance.

A coli bacterium showed the mechanism of resistance

The widespread Escherichia coli bacterium occurs in the intestines of humans and animals. Certain pathogenic strains of this bacterium can cause dangerous diseases with diarrhea or bloody diarrhea (EHEC). The researchers were able to isolate a membrane protein called MdfA from the E. coli bacteria and thus identify its molecular structure. "This is a very complicated process for the sensitive membrane proteins," emphasizes Stubbs. Here you have to work under optimal conditions so that the protein remains stable.

This is how coli bacteria protect themselves against antibiotic agents

The mechanism for resistance formation could finally be deciphered using the above-mentioned X-ray crystallography. The research team compares the process to a pump. Initially, the antibiotic is absorbed by the bacteria, but the MdfA protein ensures that the active ingredient is transported out of the cell again before it can have a fatal effect.

Do all resistant bacteria do this?

“We assume that the mechanism uncovered in this work also applies to many other antibiotics,” says Milton Stubbs. This is a solid basis for later practical application. You can only look for solutions if you understand how resistance works. (vb)

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Video: GCSE Science Revision Biology Antibiotics (January 2022).