Wednesday 12 May 2021

New antibiotic pops bacteria like balloons


Colistin was first described in 1947, and is one of the very few antibiotics that is active against many of the most deadly superbugs, including E. coli, which causes potentially lethal infections of the bloodstream, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter baumannii, which frequently infect the lungs of people receiving mechanical ventilation in intensive care units.


Researchers have revealed that colistin punches holes in bacteria, causing them to pop like balloons. The work , which was funded by the Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust, also identified a way of making the antibiotic more effective at killing bacteria.



These superbugs have two 'skins', called membranes. Colistin punctures both membranes, killing the bacteria. However, whilst it was known that colistin damaged the outer membrane by targeting a chemical called lipopolysaccharide (LPS), it was unclear how the inner membrane was pierced…until now.




Akshay Sabnis, et al. Colistin kills bacteria by targeting lipopolysaccharide in the cytoplasmic membraneeLife, 2021; 10 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.65836


Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

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