A new way has been discovered by microbiologists at Trinity College Dublin, to prevent bacteria from growing on medical devices such as hip replacements or heart valves implanted in the human body. This discovery can tame the NDM-1 (New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase-1) or the New Delhi 'superbug' that spreads in hospital settings and is resistant to all available antibiotics.
The discovery is a step towards developing new preventive strategies that could have a direct impact on the recovery of patients in the immediate aftermath of a surgical operation.
A 70-year-old American woman, who came to India for hip replacement last year, died of NDM-1 infection in the US. Her infection was resistant to all the available antibiotics, raising major concerns in the global health community.
Communities of these bacteria called "staphylococci" grow on catheters, heart valves and artificial joints and avoid being killed by antibiotics and the human immune system.
The research team led by Dr Joan Geoghegan, Assistant Professor of Microbiology at Trinity's School of Genetics and Microbiology, is studying new ways to prevent medical device-related infection.
A recent breakthrough, published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that it is possible to prevent communities of staphylococci from forming by targeting the linkages that hold the bacteria together.
It is possible to stop bacteria from attaching to surfaces and to each other using a small blocking molecule.
The target of the molecule was a protein attached to the surface of the bacteria called SdrC.
In laboratory experiments, the blocking molecule prevented the SdrC protein from recognizing other bacteria and stopped the staphylococci from growing as biofilm communities.
"These new findings show that it is possible to stop bacteria from building communities using molecules that specifically target proteins attached to the surface of the bacteria," Dr Geoghegan added.
By 2050, antibiotic resistance will kill 10 million people worldwide, said a latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Atlanta report. India is the largest consumer of antibiotics in the world.
"This exciting breakthrough will inform the design of new, targeted approaches to prevent biofilm formation by staphylococci and reduce the incidence of medical device-related infection," Dr Geoghegan added.