Researchers are studying a type of bacteria that has the potential to block its own growth and the growth of its antibiotic-resistant mutants. This finding might open the way for better approaches to fighting a class of bacteria closely related to the growing public health crisis associated with increased resistance to antibiotic treatments. “This means we can start to think about the population of microbes as another set of knobs you could turn to fight infection,” said Vernita Gordon, author of the paper recently published in Interface, and assistant professor of physics at The University of Texas at Austin.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the bacteria under study, is frequently responsible for pneumonia in hospital patients along with other life-threatening infections in fragile patients with cystic fibrosis, HIV, and who suffer from chronic wounds. P.aeruginosa is part of a class of pathogenic bacteria that, over time, are becoming more resistant to antibiotics, including E. coli, frequently involved in urinary tract infections and N. gonorrhoeae, responsible for gonorrhoea.
Scientists determined that these bacteria can alter pH balance since they produce a product that helps them suppress the antibiotic-resistant bacteria existent among them. These findings also support the notion of adding a base (higher pH) to specific inhaled treatments that can be delivered in combination with antibiotics to address cystic fibrosis patients. This would help destroy antibiotic resistance and allow the administration of lower antibiotic doses.
“Her results suggest that, for certain types of infections, formulation of an antibiotic that creates an alkaline environment at the source of infection could be effective,” said Bryan Davies from the University’s Center for Infectious Disease, who was not actively involved in the research.
Karishma Kaushik, a graduate student; Nalin Ratnayeke, an undergraduate and Dean’s Honor Graduate; and Parag Katira, a former postdoctoral researcher in Gordon’s lab are also co-authors of the study. This work was supported by ExxonMobil, The University of Texas at Austin and the University’s Department of Physics.