New alternative to antibiotics – researchers
MELBOURNE researchers say they have discovered the atomic structure of an antibacterial viral protein that could be used as an alternative to antibiotics.
Researchers say PlyC, a viral protein known as bacteriophage lysin, was first identified in 1925 but was abandoned as a possible treatment for infections following the discovery of antibiotics.
As bacteria become increasingly resistant to antibiotics, researchers from The Rockefeller University, University of Maryland, both in the United States, and Monash University’s School of Biomedical Sciences say PlyC is a promising target for the development of new drugs in the future.
According to the research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA, PlyC can kill the bacteria that cause infections from pneumonia to streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.
After six years of investigation, Monash researchers have made a breakthrough in identifying the atomic structure of PlyC in a bid to understand its antibacterial properties.
“Scientists have been trying to decipher the structure of PlyC for more than 40 years,” says Monash’s Dr Sheena McGowan.
“Finally knowing what it looks like, and how it attacks bacteria, is a huge step forward.”
Dr McGowan says PlyC is an effective bacterial killing machine that resembles a flying saucer carrying two warheads.
“It operates by locking on to the bacterial surface using eight separate docking sites located on one face of the saucer,” she says.
“The two warheads can then chew through the surface of the cell, rapidly killing the bacteria.”
Monash University’s Associate Professor Ashley Buckle says PlyC has been shown to be 100 times more efficient at killing certain bacteria than any other lysin to date, at a rate faster than household bleach.