ANTIBACTERIAL HITS A PUNCH
With the rise of antibiotic resistance, there is enormous interest in finding alternatives to overused drugs — and one such solution is offered in this week’s Nature (Vol. 412, No. 6845, 26 Jul 2001).
Naturally alluring as potential alternatives to conventional antibiotics, peptides — molecules to combat bacterial infections — are produced by a wealth of plants and animals. But unlike antibiotics, peptides are large and don’t get transported to the site of infection, making them all but useless as drugs.
Reza Ghadiri and colleagues at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, now describe a synthetic peptide with powerful antibiotic properties that overcomes this problem. The team synthesized rings of amino acids, the building blocks of peptides, which stack up to form tubes in bacterial cell walls. These "self-assembling peptide nanotubes" cleared infections of the antibiotic-resistant bug Staphylococcus aureus in mice, even when injected far from the site of infection.
The tubes are effectively punching holes in the bacterial cell, allowing the contents to leak out, think the researchers, and hence killing the bacterium. It’s an "exciting advance" in the quest for antibiotic alternatives, writes Thomas Ganz at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, in an accompanying News and Views article.
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(C) Nature press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza