In what may prove to be a major breakthrough in our understanding and use of antibiotics, rsearchers at the NYU School of Medicine say that they have gained significant insights into a mechanism that makes human pathogens like Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus anthracis resistant to numerous antibiotics.
Writing about their work in the journal Science, they have said that their study provides evidence that Nitric Oxide (NO) is able to alleviate the oxidative stress in bacteria caused by many antibiotics, and that it also helps to neutralize many antibacterial compounds.
Lead researcher Evgeny A. Nudler, The Julie Wilson Anderson Professor of Biochemistry at NYU Langone Medical Center, says in the report that eliminating this NO-mediated bacterial defence renders existing antibiotics more potent at lower, less toxic, doses. he researcher further says that the study's findings pave the way for new ways of combating bacteria that have become antibiotic resistant.
A study Nudler led a few years ago had shown that bacteria mobilize NO to defend against the oxidative stress.
The new study supports the radical idea that many antibiotics cause the oxidative stress in bacteria, often resulting in their death, whereas NO counters this effect.
Based on this work, the researchers have come to the conclusion that scientists may use commercially available inhibitors of NO-synthase, an enzyme producing NO in bacteria and humans, to make antibiotic resistant bacteria like MRSA and ANTHRAX more sensitive to available drugs during acute infection.
"Developing new medications to fight antibiotic resistant bacteria like MRSA is a huge hurdle, associated with great cost and countless safety issues. Here, we have a short cut, where we don't have to invent new antibiotics. Instead, we can enhance the activity of well established ones, making them more effective at lower doses," says Nudler.
"We are very excited about the potential impact of this research in terms of continuing to push the boundaries of research in the area of infectious diseases," said Dr. Vivian S. Lee, vice dean for science, senior vice president and chief scientific officer of NYU Langone Medical Center.
"With the emergence of drug resistant bacteria, it's imperative that researchers strive to find conceptually new approaches to fight these pathogens," Lee added.