Researchers Devise New Way To Kill Bacteria Blamed For Many Hospital Infections

Researches have developed a new way to attack pseudomonas aeruginosa, the common culprit for hospital infections.
Donna Fuscaldo
Human pathogenic bacteria Dr_Microbe/iStock

When it comes to hospital infections pseudomonas aeruginosa, is typically to blame. 

The bacterium is dangerous to people with weakened immune systems, causing blood infections and pneumonia. In sick people that could be a death sentence, since the bacterium is resistant to antibiotics as a treatment.  


Without iron, P. aeruginosa can't survive

But researchers at Nagoya University have found a way to kill that deadly pathogen by delivering drugs directly to the bacterium.  Their work was  published in the journal ACS Chemical Biology. 

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is one of the bacterias that has evolved to acquire iron from the human body, which is necessary for the bacteria to grow and survive. To get a hold of the iron the bacterial releases a protein called HasA. The protein attaches to the haem in blood. 

Bioinorganic chemist Osami Shoji of Nagoya University and collaborators have found a way to use the same technique to deliver drugs to kill the bacteria. The scientists developed a powed form of HasA and the pigment gallium phthalocyanine. When the mixture was applied to a Pseudomonas aeruginosa it killed the bacteria.

"When the pigment is exposed to near-infrared light, harmful reactive oxygen species are generated inside the bacterial cells,"  Shoji said in a press release explaining the work. "When tested, over 99.99% of the bacteria were killed following treatment with one micromolar of HasA with GaPc and ten minutes of irradiation."

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Researchers are testing, refining model for other bacteria 

According to the researchers, the haem systems is so necessary for the bacteria's survival that it's unlikely the bacteria will be able to develop a resistant to this new drug method. 

"Our findings support the use of artificial haem proteins as a Trojan horse to selectively deliver antimicrobials to target bacteria, enabling their specific and effective sterilization, irrespective of antibiotic resistance," the team of researchers said in the study.

Up next, the researchers said they are testing the method for treating infections and are developing or modifying the approach for other pathogens that have a similar haem system. 

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