10 July 2007

A breakthrough against bacterial resistance?

Bisphosponates prevent bone resroption and can thus be prescribed as a treatment for Osteoporosis and other bone disorders. Now, American scientists believe they that they might prove effective in dealing with the problem of bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Bisphosphonates appear to block an enzyme used by bacteria to swap genes which helps them to acquire or spread resistance.

In recent years most bacteria has developed some form of resistance to antibiotic treatment; many infections are now more difficult to treat effectively. Drug-resistant bacteriaquickly accumulate useful mutations and share them with other bacteria through conjugation – during this provess two bacteria come together and open holes in their membranes. One then squirts a strand of DNA to the other. Thes transfer of DNA is stopped and started by an enzyme called DNA relaxase.

Tests performed on E. coli showed the bisphosphonates wreaked havoc inside bacteria that were preparing to transfer their genes. The mechanism of action is unknown. Researchers plan to carry out further tests to establish whether theyare effective on other bacterial species.

The research appears promising but there is a long way to go before it can be established whether they are an effective treatment for a wide range of bacteria. Here’s hoping it is not a false dawn.

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