Friday, 21 February 2020

New strategy in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Bioscience engineers from KU Leuven in Belgium have developed a new antibacterial strategy that weakens bacteria by preventing them from cooperating. Unlike with antibiotics, there is no resistance to this strategy, because the non-resistant bacteria outnumber resistant ones.
Traditional antibiotics kill or reduce the activity of individual bacteria. Some bacteria become resistant to these antibiotics, allowing them to grow further and take over from non-resistant ones. The use of antibiotics therefore causes more and more bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics.

Bacteria, however, also exhibit group behaviour: for example, they can make a protective slime layer or biofilm that envelops their entire bacterial community. Dental plaque is an example of such a biofilm. Biofilms are often the source of bacterial infections. The social behaviour of bacteria is an interesting new target for antibacterial therapy.

The researchers showed that blocking slime production of salmonella bacteria weakens the bacterial community, making it easier to remove. They used a chemical, antibacterial substance that was previously developed at KU Leuven.

The scientists then compared the development of bacterial resistance to the new substance with that of classical antibiotics in a so-called evolution experiment. Evolution experiments are used to see how microorganisms adapt to a certain situation. "

There are several applications possible in agriculture, industry, and even our households. To this end, the researchers collaborate with experts in various applications, and with producers of animal feeds and cleaning products and disinfectants. The researchers are also investigating whether they can reproduce the phenomenon in other forms of microbial collaboration next to biofilms, and with other bacteria. 


Lise Dieltjens, Kenny Appermans, Maries Lissens, Bram Lories, Wook Kim, Erik V. Van der Eycken, Kevin R. Foster, Hans P. Steenackers. Inhibiting bacterial cooperation is an evolutionarily robust anti-biofilm strategy. Nature Communications, 2020; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-13660-x

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

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