Coming Soon: No More Antibiotic Resistance!

New Picture (5)

This graphic shows a carbapenems molecule entering the carbapenemase enzyme (blue arrow), which is where the beta-lactam structure gets broken down. The orange arrow shows the ineffective molecule leaving the enzyme.

Sarah Yeager (11 AM Micro) has taken my dire warnings about the future of medicine to heart, specifically our increasing problems in treating bacterial infections with antibiotics. However, she is unwilling to just sit there and do nothing about it; she has found research that may be able to help this problem, at least for a while. Spoilers though, Sarah, this will only work for a little while–the bacteria are always going to win, although we may be able to kick the can down the road a bit. She found this work via an article in Science Daily. Here is Sarah’s summary:

The issue of antibiotic resistance may not be a major issue now, but in twenty to thirty years, some of the diseases that people receive immunizations for might be prevalent in America again. The idea of antibiotic resistance may not be well known by everybody, but those involved in science and medical fields know the threat that this poses and I believe that everybody should realize that this could happen in their lifetime. This issue is due to fact that diseases are beginning to become antibiotic resistance since they have been introduced to the same treatment for multiple years now. Antibiotic resistance of bacteria is not an evolutionary adaptation, instead it is a variation of another bacteria. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are created through alterations or mutations in their DNA.

At the University of Bristol, researchers have shown how bacteria can destroy antibiotics with the use of an enzyme. This is an interesting topic because this discovery can eventually help to develop drugs that can treat infections in the future without allowing the bacteria to become resistant to the antibiotic. The researchers used a Nobel Prize-winning technique called quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) simulations in order to see how an enzyme, beta-lactamases, reacts to antibiotics. Using QM/MM simulations, they discovered that the most important step in the process occurs when the enzyme ‘spits out’ the broken down antibiotic. This process can occur either quickly or slowly. If it happens quickly, the bacteria becomes antibiotic resistance because the enzyme is able to continue to destroy the antibiotic. However, if the process occurs slowly, the enzyme is not able to become antibiotic resistant due to the amount of time that it takes for it to ‘spit out’ the antibiotic. Since different enzymes take different amounts of time, it is important to figure out which ones are contributing to creating antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Using a computer simulation at the University of Bristol’s school of Chemistry, the researchers were able to identify the enzymes that spit out carbapenems quickly and those who do not. Right now, they are focused on understanding how bacteria becomes resistance to carbapenems, “last resort” antibiotics, for infections and super bugs like Escherichia coli. The resistance to carbapenems is a huge issue because it can cause a minor infection to turn into a major one since it cannot be treated with the usual antibiotics. In the future, the computer simulations will hopefully help to test enzymes in order to predict the possibility for resistance to carbapenems and other antibiotics. This tool will be useful in identifying how different bacteria respond to different drugs in the case of an outbreak.

This discovery will greatly contribute to the on-going process of finding a way to create antibiotics that will work on bacteria and will not become antibiotic resistant.  Hopefully, with this discovery, scientists will be able to create antibiotics for diseases before they become antibiotic resistant and create a major problem across the world.


About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on October 24, 2014, in Danger danger danger!, Guest Post. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Brittany Reichelt

    I think that it is pretty cool that scientists were able to use this test to figure out how quickly the process of the enzyme putting out the antibiotic. Hopefully, this will help us in discovering new treatments against bacterial infections.

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