Scientists develop antimicrobial peptides to target biofilms

Researchers at the University of St Andrews, in collaboration with the University of Dundee, have made a significant breakthrough in combating bacterial growth in biofilms, which are responsible for up to 80% of human infections. Biofilms pose a challenge for infection treatment as they diminish the effectiveness of antibiotics and give rise to various medical complications. Infections related to joint replacements, prosthetic devices, catheters, and other medical equipment are common complications associated with biofilms.

The team, led by Dr. Clarissa Melo Czekster and Dr. Christopher Harding from the School of Biology at St Andrews, published their findings in Nature Chemical Biology on June 29. They developed antimicrobial peptides capable of targeting harmful bacteria thriving in biofilms.

Through their research, the team gained insights into the functioning of a crucial enzyme called PaAP within biofilms and devised an innovative strategy to hinder its activity. The team’s inhibitor demonstrated potent effects against cells of the human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, known as one of the top concerns among pathogens identified by the World Health Organization. This bacterium causes chronic infections in individuals with cystic fibrosis and other underlying conditions, emphasizing the urgent need for a biofilm inhibitor.

The development of these antimicrobial peptides provides hope for improved management and treatment of biofilm-related infections, addressing a significant challenge in the field of medicine.

Credit: University of St Andrews

Dr. Czekster and her team are currently collaborating with the University of St Andrews Technology Transfer Center and Locate Bio, an industry partner and biomedicine spinout of the University of Nottingham, to commercialize their groundbreaking technology. Locate Bio is conducting trials to assess the compatibility of the peptides with their Programmed Drug Release technology, aiming to develop new orthobiologic solutions and products. The Technology Transfer Center has filed a priority patent application in the United Kingdom to protect their innovative findings.

Dr. Czekster expressed enthusiasm about their research, stating, “Our study provides valuable insights into how designed inhibitors can effectively target a key enzyme involved in bacterial virulence, offering molecular knowledge that can be applied to various organisms. This remarkable research introduces an innovative approach to combat bacterial biofilms and paves the way for enhanced treatment of bacterial infections.”

Source: University of St Andrews

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