Through the serendipity of science, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have discovered a potential treatment for deadly, drug-resistant bacterial infections that uses the same approach that HIV uses to infect cells.
The National Institutes of Health-supported discovery will be described in the June issue of the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. It is especially promising in the development of a potential treatment for lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis.
"The discovery of this new antibiotic was an unexpected result of basic research on HIV proteins," said senior author Ronald Montelaro, Ph.D., professor and co-director of Pitt's Center for Vaccine Research (CVR). "As a result of studying these proteins, we discovered novel structures that turn out to work very well against bacterial infections, including the complicated bacterial populations in lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients."
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that leads to thick, viscous secretions in the lungs and other organs in about 30,000 children and adults in the United States, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Lung infections resistant to antibiotics often are deadly for people with cystic fibrosis. About 80 percent of cystic fibrosis patients have at least one antibiotic-resistant infection in their lungs by age 18.
"Infections with progressively resistant bacteria in the lung shorten the lives of people with cystic fibrosis," said Joseph M. Pilewski, M.D., co-director of the Adult Cystic Fibrosis Center at UPMC. "What happens is the genetic defect predisposes patients to infections that drive the production of mucus that then blocks the airways and makes it difficult to breath."
Dr. Montelaro and his colleagues found that a particular sequence of amino acids on the tail end of HIV allow the virus to "punch into" and infect cells. The team manufactured a synthetic and more efficie
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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences