Traditional antibiotics aim to kill or stop the growth of pathogens, but antivirulence drugs prevent disease by neutralizing virulence factors, the specific proteins or toxins that a pathogen uses to establish an infection.
Scientists have long thought such a strategy could prevent pathogens from developing drug resistance, since antivirulence drugs don't kill the pathogens that are susceptible and leave a wide opening for the few resistant organisms that may be left. Thus, in theory, antivirulence drugs don't offer much benefit to the pathogens that get around the drug. However, these ideas have never been tested.
The study coming out this week provides evidence that antivirulence drugs have the potential to suppress resistance if they are applied in the right way. Brett Mellbye and Martin Schuster from Oregon State University carried out laboratory simulations to determine the effect antivirulence drug-resistant strains could have on therapy. They found that in pathogens that rely on cell-to-cell communication and cooperation, resistant strains will not overtake sensitive strains, allowing antivirulence therapies that target social interactions to work even when resistance arises.
"It's a very important demonstration of the principle that social effects can slow or even halt the spread of resistance to antivirulence drugs," says Sam Brown, of Edinburgh University, Invited Editor on the study. "Their results align with our understanding of social evolution."
Mellbye and Schuster created a microcosm that simulates an infection, says Brown, and they used bacteria that employ quorum sensing, a form of communication that enables the bacteria to time their attack for greatest effect. Quorum sensing is an important target for antivirulence drugs because many bacterial pathogens, including the lung pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, employ quorum sensing to control the manufacture of their virulence factors.
To circumvent the problem of creating a strain that is resistant to an antivirulence drug, Brown says, the authors used surrogates. "It's kind of a role-playing exercise," to test their ideas, he says. "They used bacteria that behave as we expect drug-resistant bacteria might behave." "Sensitive" mimics are bacteria that lack the ability to communicate and cooperate. "Resistant" mimics are actually run-of-the-mill bacteria that retain the ability to "talk" amongst themselves.
The researchers pitted resistant mimics against sensitive mimics to test whether resistant strains can proliferate in an infection. The results showed that sensitive mimics cheat to get ahead: they exploit the resources that the resistant bacteria provide through quorum sensing. This delays the growth of all the bacteria, suggesting that resistance to an antivirulence drug that targets quorum sensing would not spread. The authors say this highlights the potential of antivirulence strategies that target cooperative behaviors and shared virulence factors.
Brown is optimistic but circumspect about the findings. "These results could very well stand, but in the the real world resistance could still emerge and we need to be cautious."
"I think these drugs are promising, even if we do anticipate resistance, because they can slow the rate of resistance evolution, much slower than the rate of resistance evolution to traditional antibiotics," says Brown.
mBio® is an open access online journal published by the American Society for Microbiology to make microbiology research broadly accessible. The focus of the journal is on rapid publication of cutting-edge research spanning the entire spectrum of microbiology and related fields. It can be found online at http://www.mbio.asm.org
One gene closer to regenerative therapy for muscular disorders
01.06.2017 | Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
The gut microbiota plays a key role in treatment with classic diabetes medication
01.06.2017 | University of Gothenburg
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology