Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Combatting increasing resistance in bacteria

Nobel Prize winner Dr Kary Mullis has been working on a method to counter the increasing prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria and the threat it poses by attaching antigens already recognized by the immune system to the bacteria so it is detected quicker and killed.

Alpha-gal epitopes, which are found in the tissue of other animals but not humans, are easily recognized as foreign and are broken down by phagocytosis in macrophages. Dr Mullis and his team had the idea to develop a method to attatch alpha-gal epitopes to pathogenic bacteria to flag the cell for destruction.

This was accomplished by creating an Altermune linker. This linker consists of the Alpha-gal epitope bonded to a DNA aptamer. The aptamer is a molecule that will latch onto a pathogen and stay there. This binds the epitope to the bacteria, making them one, which causes the bacteria to be engulfed and broken down when the epitope antigen is discovered by a macrophage.

The team have achieved success in proving that the concept works by experimenting with mice. Anthrax was given to the mice and an Altermune linker containing an alpha-gal epitope bound to a DNA aptamer with a complimentary 3D shape to a certain part of the anthrax pathogen. The result achieved was a 100% survival rate in the mice, where the control achieved a 0% survival rate.

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