Silencing the communication between bacteria increases their vulnerability

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Treatment of an MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection often is very difficult, as these bacteria are resistant to many antibiotics. In addition, these bacteria often reside in a strong biofilm, making them even less susceptible to antibiotic treatment.

Ghent University scientists have developed a new strategy to treat these infections: disrupting the way in which bacterial cells communicate with each other. The results were published in Scientific Reports, an online Nature journal.

The research group, led by Dr. Gilles Brackman and prof. Tom Coenye, used a molecule derived from the witch hazel (hamamelitannin). They showed that the substance affects the quorum sensing capacity of bacteria, i.e. the communication of bacteria by exchanging chemical signal molecules. An important component of this communication system is the TraP protein. Hamamelitannin interfers with the TraP receptor. It makes the bacteria more sensitive to the antibiotic vancomycin.

For example, bacteria defend themselves against vancomycin by thickening their cell wall, however, in combination with hamamelitannin, they are unable to do this.

The results of this study demonstrate that the combination of antibiotics with substances that disrupt the bacterial communication, are a promising strategy for the treatment of infections caused by resistant bacteria.

Read more about it here:
Gilles Brackman, Koen Breyne, Riet De Rycke, Arno Vermote, Filip Van Nieuwerburgh, Evelyne Meyer, Serge Van Calenbergh & Tom Coenye. 2016. The Quorum Sensing Inhibitor Hamamelitannin Increases Antibiotic Susceptibility of Staphylococcus aureus Biofilms by Affecting Peptidoglycan Biosynthesis and eDNA Release; Scientific Reports.