Infections with one of the most troublesome and least understood antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” are increasing at alarming rates, particularly in healthcare settings. But new research, published July 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online Early Edition, suggests it may be possible to rein in the spread of such infections without the need to develop new antibiotics, reports a team at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Bacteria are natural competitors and have the capacity to kill off other bacteria. But to become bacterial assassins, the researchers found that multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii, a frequent cause of difficult-to-treat infections in hospitals, has to relinquish its ability to defy 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,” says first author Brent Weber, a graduate student. “Instead of looking for new antibiotics, we could restore bacteria’s vulnerability to antibiotics we already have.”