This insect could help the fight against antibiotic resistance

Researchers discovered a previously unknown mechanism by which an insect-derived antibiotic kills Gram-negative bacteria, which could aid in the creation of new antibiotics, according to a study published in Science Advances.

Thanatin is a natural antibiotic produced by an insect called the spined soldier bug. An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Zurich found thanatin prevents Gram-negative bacteria from forming an outer membrane, which serves as a protective shield for the cells. Bacteria cannot survive without this outer membrane.

"This is an unprecedented mechanism of action for an antibiotic and immediately suggests ways to develop new molecules as antibiotics targeting dangerous pathogens," study author John A. Robinson, PhD, a researcher in the department of chemistry at UZH, said in a press release. "This finding shows us a way to develop substances that specifically inhibit protein-protein interactions in bacterial cells."

A Swiss drugmaker called Polyphor is already using this new mechanism to develop potential antibiotic candidates.

"Another new antibiotic targeting other Gram-negative pathogens would be a very welcome addition to the new medicines urgently needed for effective antibacterial therapy," Dr. Robinson said.

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