It is well-known that the indiscriminate use of antibiotics has allowed an increasing number of pathogens to develop immunity to penicillin and other antibiotics.
The threat is evident from the World Health Organization warning that if measures are not taken quickly, it may soon not be possible to treat many frequently occurring infections.
But research scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI say they've found an alternative in the nick of time - antimicrobial peptides.
"We have already identified 20 of these short chains of amino acids which kill numerous microbes, including enterococci, yeasts and molds, as well as human pathogenic bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans, which is found in the human oral cavity and causes tooth decay," said Dr. Andreas Schubert, group manager at Fraunhofer IZI..
Even the multi-resistant hospital bug Staphylococcus aureus is not immune, and in our tests its growth was considerably inhibited," Schubert, said.
From familiar fungicidal and bactericidal peptides the research scientists produced sequence variations and tested them in vitro on various microbes.
They then compared the survivability of the pathogens with an untreated control.
Antibiotic peptides unblock their microbicidal effect within a few minutes, stated Schubert, and work at a concentration of less than 1uM. Conventional antibiotics require a concentration of 10uM.
"The spectrum of efficacy of the tested peptides includes not only bacteria and molds but also lipid-enveloped viruses," Schubert added. "Another key factor is that the peptides identified in our tests do not harm healthy body cells."