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> New type of vaccine works to inhibit pathogenicity of drug resistant Gram-negative bacilli
New type of vaccine works to inhibit pathogenicity of drug resistant Gram-negative bacilli
A collaboration of researchers published a paper today in mBio where they show that inhibiting the synthesis of lipopolysaccharides correlated with virulence was an effective “antibiotic” against Acinetobacter baumannii – a often deadly bacteria especially prevalent in hospitals. This research is really exciting because the antibiotic is a small molecular inhibitor known as LpxC which affects lipid A biosynthesis, but is not aimed at killing the bacteria – simply reducing it’s pathogenicity. With the number of effective antibiotics dwindling at an alarming rate, this is exceedingly good news for the medical community struggling with the challenges of “super-bugs”.
Excerpt from: New antibiotic cures disease by disarming pathogens, not killing them
“We found that strains that caused the rapidly lethal infections shed lipopolysaccharide [also called LPS or endotoxin] while growing. The more endotoxin shed, the more virulent the strain was,” says Spellberg. This pinpointed a new therapy target for the researchers: the endotoxin these bacteria shed in the body.
Blocking the synthesis of the endotoxin with a small molecule called LpxC-1 prevented infected mice from getting sick. Unlike traditional antibiotics, Spellberg says, LpxC-1 doesn’t kill the bacteria, it just shuts down the manufacture of the endotoxin and stops the body from mounting the inflammatory immune response to it that is the actual cause of death in seriously ill patients.
Spellberg says this is a direction few researchers have taken when exploring ways to treat infections but that it could make the difference in finding an effective drug. The results also highlight how important it is to find new, physiologically relevant ways of screening potential antibiotics for pathogens with a high degree of resistance, write the authors. Molecules like LpxC-1 that inhibit rather than kill bacteria wouldn’t pass muster with traditional antibiotic screens that are based on killing effectiveness.
The actual article from mBio: Inhibition of LpxC Protects Mice from Resistant Acinetobacter baumannii by Modulating Inflammation and Enhancing Phagocytosis
New treatments are needed for extensively drug-resistant (XDR) Gram-negative bacilli (GNB), such as Acinetobacter baumannii. Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) was previously reported to enhance bacterial clearance of GNB, including A. baumannii. However, here we have shown that 100% of wild-type mice versus 0% of TLR4-deficient mice died of septic shock due to A. baumannii infection, despite having similar tissue bacterial burdens. The strain lipopolysaccharide (LPS) content and TLR4 activation by extracted LPS did not correlate with in vivo virulence, nor did colistin resistance due to LPS phosphoethanolamine modification. However, more-virulent strains shed more LPS during growth than less-virulent strains, resulting in enhanced TLR4 activation. Due to the role of LPS in A. baumannii virulence, an LpxC inhibitor (which affects lipid A biosynthesis) antibiotic was tested. The LpxC inhibitor did not inhibit growth of the bacterium (MIC > 512 µg/ml) but suppressed A. baumannii LPS-mediated activation of TLR4. Treatment of infected mice with the LpxC inhibitor enhanced clearance of the bacteria by enhancing opsonophagocytic killing, reduced serum LPS concentrations and inflammation, and completely protected the mice from lethal infection. These results identify a previously unappreciated potential for the new class of LpxC inhibitor antibiotics to treat XDR A. baumannii infections. Furthermore, they have far-reaching implications for pathogenesis and treatment of infections caused by GNB and for the discovery of novel antibiotics not detected by standard in vitro screens.
IMPORTANCE Novel treatments are needed for infections caused by Acinetobacter baumannii, a Gram-negative bacterium that is extremely antibiotic resistant. The current study was undertaken to understand the immunopathogenesis of these infections, as a basis for defining novel treatments. The primary strain characteristic that differentiated virulent from less-virulent strains was shedding of Gram-negative lipopolysaccharide (LPS) during growth. A novel class of antibiotics, called LpxC inhibitors, block LPS synthesis, but these drugs do not demonstrate the ability to kill A. baumannii in vitro. We found that an LpxC inhibitor blocked the ability of bacteria to activate the sepsis cascade, enhanced opsonophagocytic killing of the bacteria, and protected mice from lethal infection. Thus, an entire new class of antibiotics which is already in development has heretofore-unrecognized potential to treat A. baumannii infections. Furthermore, standard antibiotic screens based on in vitro killing failed to detect this treatment potential of LpxC inhibitors for A. baumannii infections.