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HKUST paves way for antibiotics against superbugs with antibiotics resistance mechanism discovery

HKUST paves way for antibiotics against superbugs with antibiotics resistance mechanism discovery

According
to a recent
press release
, researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and
Technology (HKUST) have identified the mechanism behind broad-spectrum
bacterial resistance to peptide antibiotics.

The
team of researchers are led by Professor Qian Pei-Yuan, Chair Professor from
the Division of Life
Science
. Prof Qian is also David von Hansemann Professor of Science and
Acting Head of the Department of Ocean Science at HKUST.

This
discovery opens a new direction to the design of new drugs in tackling
superbugs, as peptide antibiotics is widely perceived as the last-line of
defense against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Peptide
antibiotics – including vancomycin and polymyxin for respective treatment
of Staphylococcus Aureus (CA-MRSA)
Infection and Escherichia coil infection,
are often used as the last resort due to their resilience to multidrug
resistant bacteria. 

However,
a few years ago, scientists have started identifying a few types of peptide
antibiotics which have developed symptoms of bacterial resistance, although the
causes behind such phenomenon remained unknown. 

Now,
following the analysis of over 6,000 bacteria genomes under repeated validation
through gene editing, chemical and enzymatic analyses, Prof Qian’s team
eventually identified a family of D-stereospecific resistance peptidases (DRPs)
as the source of the problem, and its magnitude extends well beyond a few
strains of bacteria.

The
team also discovered that the DRPs enzyme, which they identified as the cause
of broad-spectrum bacteria resistance against peptide antibiotics, is found in
not just a few, but many different strains of bacteria, sounding an alarm
against persistent improper use of antibiotics.

“DRPs
are phylogenetically widely distributed in nature, if they are transferred to
opportunistic pathogens with human’s increasing misuse and
overuse of antibiotics, more and more peptide antibiotics would be
rendered useless, leading to delay or even failure in treatment,” said Prof
Qian.

According
to Prof Qian, misuse and overuse of antibiotics of humans will intensify the problem
of antibiotic resistance of pathogens, that makes research on peptide
antibiotics even more important.

“Deepening
our understanding of antibiotic resistance mechanisms to peptide antibiotics
does not only serve as a wake-up call but is also conducive to increasing our
collective antibiotic arsenal. The findings of DRPs is just the beginning, we
hope it will lead to more research on the use and development of peptide
antibiotics,” he added

The findings of Prof Qian and his fellow
researchers were recently published in the scientific journal Nature Chemical Biology.