Hair-like structures on bacteria could open door for new antibiotics

The surface of pathogenic bacteria like E. coli contains hair-like structures called pili, which help bacteria bind to a host cell and stimulate infection. Researchers identified a new stage of pilus creation, which could offer helpful knowledge for creating new antibiotics, according to a study published in Nature.

For the study, David Thanassi, PhD, chair of the molecular genetics and microbiology department at Stony Brook (N.Y.) University, and his colleagues used crypto-electron microscopy — an advanced imaging technique — to analyze pili on the surface of E. coli.

Researchers discovered a previously unidentified stage in the pilus' formation process.

"This discovery provides us with new insights into the mechanism by which bacteria build these essential virulence structures leading to infection," Dr. Thanassi told Futurity. "Our findings open the door to new therapies targeting bacterial pili, and related virulence factors, as an alternative to traditional antibiotics."

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