Competitive nature may be key to controlling drug-resistant bacteria

Drug-resistant bacteria have innate vulnerability tendency to antibiotics
Drug-resistant bacteria have innate vulnerability tendency to antibiotics | Courtesy of
A recent study proposes that antibiotic-resistant  “superbugs” may be controlled without creating new antibiotics.

Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have suggested that multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii, which is a common cause of hospital infections that prove difficult to treat, may have the ability to become vulnerable to antibiotics. Because bacteria are naturally competitive, they can destroy other bacteria. Acinetobacter baumannii’s natural ability to destroy its competitors may be activated by scientists, which would also make the bacteria susceptible to antibiotics.

"If we can identify ways to force the entire population of drug-resistant bacteria to undergo this change, we stand a better chance of fighting the growing problem of antibiotic resistance," study first author Brent Weber said. "Instead of looking for new antibiotics, we could restore bacteria's vulnerability to antibiotics we already have."

This is good news for the health community, as antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” are troublesome, difficult to understand, and increasing at a rapid pace, especially in health care settings.

"Many strains of this type of bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, can survive disinfectants and rapidly are becoming major health problems in hospitals worldwide," Mario Feldman, senior author and associate professor of molecular microbiology, said. "This appears to be a common strategy for these bacteria in different parts of the world, and further study could help us understand how bacteria evolve into superbugs that are resistant to many forms of treatment."

Additional details are available in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online Early Edition, published July 13. 

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Washington University in St. Louis

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