Research Highlights

An antimicrobial peptide that kills drug-resistant bacteria

doi:10.1038/nindia.2019.98 Published online 26 July 2019

Using computer models, researchers have designed an antimicrobial peptide that can safely and effectively kill drug-resistant bacteria in mice1. The peptide could be used to supplement or replace conventional antibiotic treatments for resistant pathogens, especially in patients where kidney damage is a concern. 

Every year, five million people globally succumb to infections caused by drug-resistant pathogens. A third of all intensive care unit patients worldwide develop drug-resistant infections, the majority of which are caused by the ESKAPE pathogen family.

The ESKAPE family includes bacteria such as Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Enterobacter spp, all of which  have developed resistance to multiple antibiotics.

In search of novel antibiotics, scientists from the Indian Institute of Science and MS Ramaiah Medical College, both in Bangalore, India, designed five new peptides based on an existing database of known peptide structures.    

The researchers, led by Nagasmua Chandra, narrowed their search to a potent peptide named Omega76.  Healthy mice treated with repeated safe doses of this peptide over a five-day period did not encounter any toxicity, whereas healthy mice treated with antibiotic colistin over the same period died from toxic effects.

Experiments showed that Omega76, when used in combination with colistin, didn’t exert any toxic effects.

The new peptide, the researchers say, appears to be a promising drug candidate. Future research may convert it into a therapeutic agent.


References

1. Nagarajan, D. et al. Omega76: A designed antimicrobial peptide to combat carbapenem- and tigecycline-resistant Acinetobacter baumanniiSci. Adv. 5, eaax1946 (2019)