Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Scientists unveil secrets of important natural antibiotic

An international team of scientists has discovered how an important natural antibiotic called dermcidin, produced by our skin when we sweat, is a highly efficient tool to fight tuberculosis germs and other dangerous bugs.

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!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Two decades of training students and experts in tracking infectious disease
27.11.2015 | Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften Hamburg

nachricht Increased carbon dioxide enhances plankton growth, opposite of what was expected
27.11.2015 | Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Siemens to supply 126 megawatts to onshore wind power plants in Scotland

27.11.2015 | Press release

Two decades of training students and experts in tracking infectious disease

27.11.2015 | Life Sciences

Coming to a monitor near you: A defect-free, molecule-thick film

27.11.2015 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>