When it comes to fighting pathogenic bacteria, an international team of researchers has opined that a cocktail of two antibiotics would prove effective.
Individually, lankacidin and lankamycin, two antibiotics produced naturally by the microbe streptomyces, are marginally effective in warding off pathogens.
However, when used together, the two antibiotics were much more successful in inhibiting growth of dangerous pathogens such as MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and possibly others, says lead researcher Alexander Mankin, professor and associate director of the UIC Centre for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology.
"What we found most amazing is that the two antibiotics appeared to help each other in stopping pathogens from making new proteins and in inhibiting bacterial growth," said Mankin.
Lankacidin and lankamycin act upon the ribosomes, the protein-synthesizing factories of the cell.
A newly-made protein exits the ribosome through a tunnel through the ribosome body. Some antibiotics stave off an infection by preventing the ribosome from assembling proteins, while others bind in the tunnel and block the protein's passage.
Through the use of X-ray crystallography, which determines the arrangement of atoms in biological molecules, the Israeli team, led by Ada Yonath, a 2009 Nobel Prize winner, discovered the exact binding site of lankacidin in the ribosome. Mankin's group demonstrated that lankacidin prevents the ribosome from assembling new proteins.
When researchers realized that streptomyces also manufactures lankamycin, they became curious whether the two drugs might help each other.
Biochemical analysis and molecular modeling showed that ankamycin binds in the ribosomal tunnel right next to ankacidin.
The study appears in online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.