Scientists report that an analysis of the genome of a superbug has yielded vital clues that could be key to counteract the bacterium's resistance to an antibiotic.
Superbugs are bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics and represent one of the most challenging health problems of the 21st century. Infections caused by these bacteria can lead to longer illnesses, extended hospital stays and in some instances death.
The new study lays the foundation for understanding how bacteria may become resistant to daptomycin, which is one of the few antibiotics left with activity against a superbug called vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), and is usually used as a drug of last resort.
Researchers compared the genomes of bacterial samples drawn from the blood of a patient with VRE bloodstream infection receiving daptomycin. The bacterium developed daptomycin resistance and the patient subsequently died.
By comparing the genetic makeup of the bacterium before and after it developed resistance to daptomycin, the researchers were able to identify changes in genes directly tied to antibiotic resistance.
"Our research provides direct substantiation that changes in two bacterial genes are sufficient for the development of daptomycin resistance in VRE during therapy," said Cesar Arias, M.D., Ph.D., the study's lead author and principal investigator.
The study was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.