Their results could contribute to the development of new antibiotics that control multi-resistant bacteria.
Scientists have uncovered the atomic structure of the compound, enabling them to pinpoint for the first time what makes dermcidin such an efficient weapon in the battle against dangerous bugs.
Although about 1700 types of these natural antibiotics are known to exist, scientists did not until now have a detailed understanding of how they work.
The study, carried out by researchers from the University of Edinburgh and from Goettingen, Tuebingen and Strasbourg, is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Sweat spreads highly efficient antibiotics on to our skin, which protect us from dangerous bugs. If our skin becomes injured by a small cut, a scratch, or the sting of a mosquito, antibiotic agents secreted in sweat glands, such as dermcidin, rapidly and efficiently kill invaders.
These natural substances, known as antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), are more effective in the long term than traditional antibiotics, because germs are not capable of quickly developing resistance against them.
The antimicrobials can attack the bugs' Achilles' heel – their cell wall, which cannot be modified quickly to resist attack. Because of this, AMPs have great potential to form a new generation of antibiotics.
Scientists have known for some time that dermcidin is activated in salty, slightly acidic sweat. The molecule then forms tiny channels perforating the cell membrane of bugs, which are stabilised by charged particles of zinc present in sweat. As a consequence, water and charged particles flow uncontrollably across the membrane, eventually killing the harmful microbes.
Through a combination of techniques, scientists were able to determine the atomic structure of the molecular channel. They found that it is unusually long, permeable and adaptable, and so represents a new class of membrane protein.
The team also discovered that dermcidin can adapt to extremely variable types of membrane. Scientists say this could explain why active dermcidin is such an efficient broad-spectrum antibiotic, able to fend off bacteria and fungi at the same time.
The compound is active against many well-known pathogens such as tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, or Staphylococcus aureus. Multi-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, in particular, have become an increasing threat for hospital patients. They are insensitive towards conventional antibiotics and so are difficult to treat. Staphylococcus aureus infections can lead to life-threatening diseases such as sepsis and pneumonia. The international team of scientists hopes that their results can contribute to the development of a new class of antibiotics that is able to attack such dangerous germs.
Dr Ulrich Zachariae of the University of Edinburgh's School of Physics, who took part in the study, said: "Antibiotics are not only available on prescription. Our own bodies produce efficient substances to fend off bacteria, fungi and viruses. Now that we know in detail how these natural antibiotics work, we can use this to help develop infection-fighting drugs that are more effective than conventional antibiotics."
Catriona Kelly | EurekAlert!
No chance for house dust mites
06.05.2015 | Hohenstein Institute
Expedition Genomics Lab: the mobile revolution in genetic analysis
06.05.2015 | MUSE Museo delle Scienze
Spray drying is a common manufacturing process, used in the production of ceramic granulate for technical components or dental prostheses as well as dissolvable medicinal substances, food additives and in the processing of milk into powder. Using computer simulation methodology developed by scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM, a more comprehensible understanding can now be gained of the behavior of particles in solvent during the spray drying process. This allows powder and granulate manufacturers to specifically adjust the properties of their products while reducing waste.
Previously, it was unusual for granule and powder producers to use granulation simulations to improve their products. For new product development or process...
Texas A&M University researchers demonstrate how a narrow-band strobe light source for speckle-free imaging has the potential to reveal microscopic forms of life
In modern microscope imaging techniques, lasers are used as light sources because they can deliver fast pulsed and extremely high-intensity radiation to a...
A team of highly determined high school students discovered a never-before-seen pulsar by painstakingly analyzing data from the National Science Foundation's...
Scientists from Nepal, Switzerland and Germany was now able to show how erosion processes caused by the monsoon are mirrored in the sediment load of a river crossing the Himalaya.
In these days, it was again tragically demonstrated that the Himalayas are one of the most active geodynamic regions of the world. Landslides belong to the...
A world-class prime systems integrator and electronic systems provider known for its rapid, innovative, and agile technology solutions, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is currently developing a new space transportation system called the Dream Chaser.
The ultimate aim is to construct a multi-mission-capable space utility vehicle, while accelerating the overall development process for this critical capability...
05.05.2015 | Event News
23.04.2015 | Event News
23.04.2015 | Event News
06.05.2015 | Life Sciences
06.05.2015 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
06.05.2015 | Life Sciences