In addition, PlyPH, like PlyG, is highly specific in terms of the types of bacteria it affects. When Fischetti and colleagues added PlyPH to different bacterial species, only the anthrax bacteria were killed. This is a great benefit over antibiotics, which kill many different kinds of bacteria, including many helpful species. Because it is so specific, the chances of anthrax becoming resistant to PlyPH, as it is to many of the antibiotics currently available to treat it, are extremely low.
"We have never seen bacterial resistance to a lysin," says Fischetti. "PlyPH and PlyG are probably the most specific lysins we, or anyone, has ever identified -- they only kill anthrax and its very close relatives. This feature, and the wide pH range offered by PlyPH, is why we think it could be used as an environmental decontaminant."
Fischetti hopes to combine PlyPH with a non-toxic aqueous substance developed by a group in California that will germinate any anthrax spores it comes in contact with. As the spores germinate, the PlyPH protein will kill them, usually in a matter of minutes. The combined solution could be used in buildings, on transportation equipment, on clothing, even on skin, providing a safe, easy way to fight the spread of anthrax in the event of a mass release.