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Research could put penicillin back in battle against antibiotic resistant bugs that kill millions
Date:3/12/2008

Research led by the University of Warwick has uncovered exactly how the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae has become resistant to the antibiotic penicillin. The same research could also open up MRSA to attack by penicillin and help create a library of designer antibiotics to use against a range of other dangerous bacteria.

Worldwide Streptococcus pneumoniae causes 5 million fatal pneumonia infections a year in children. In the US it causes 1 million cases a year of pneumococcal pneumonia in the elderly of which up to 7% are fatal. This new research has completely exposed how Streptococcus pneumoniae builds its penicillin immunity and opens up many ways to disrupt that mechanism and restore penicillin as a weapon against these bacteria.

The research was led by Dr Adrian Lloyd of the University of Warwicks Department of Biological Sciences along with other colleagues from the University of Warwick, the Universit Laval, Ste-Foy in Quebec, and The Rockefeller University in New York. The research was funded by Welcome Trust and the MRC.

Penicillin normally acts by preventing the construction of an essential component of the bacterial cell wall: the Peptidoglycan. This component provides a protective mesh around the otherwise fragile bacterial cell, providing the mechanical support and stability required for the integrity and viability of cells of Streptococcus pneumoniae and other bacteria including MRSA.

The researchers targeted a protein called MurM that is essential for clinically observed penicillin resistance and has also been linked to changes in the chemical make up of the peptidoglycan that appear in penicillin resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae isolated from patients with pneumococcal infections.

The researchers found that MurM acted as an enzyme that was key to the formation of particular structures within the S. pneumoniae peptidoglycan called dipeptide bridges that link together strands of the peptidoglycan
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Contact: Dr Adrian Lloyd
A.J.Lloyd@warwick.ac.uk
44-024-765-22568
University of Warwick
Source:Eurekalert

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