Researchers discover a way to increase the effectiveness of antibiotics

This immunotherapeutic increases human neutrophil (blue Nuclear stain, Hoeschest), phagocytosis with S. aureus. (red, pHrodo stain). Credit: (C] Dr Jennifer Payne
Researchers at Monash University, Harvard University and EMBL Australia have found a way for antibiotics to be more effective against resistant bacteria (also known as'superbugs').

The World Health Organization states that antimicrobial resistance to superbugs is a growing problem and is among the top 10 public health threats facing humanity.

This research will allow for an increase in the effectiveness of antibiotics without the need to give patients higher doses or rely on new antibiotics being discovered.

The body uses molecules known as chemoattractants in order to attract neutrophils to an area of infection. The immune system's most important component is the ability of neutrophils to kill and encapsulate dangerous bacteria. Researchers added a chemoattractant (an antibiotic) to increase the recruitment of immune cell and enhance their killing abilities.

Nature Communications has published the findings.

When looking at the ability of our immune system to fight bacteria, there are two key aspects that we must consider. Our ability to trap bacterial cells and kill them is the first. The second is the signalsthe chemoattractantscalling for more neutrophils, white blood cells which lead the immune system's response to resolve infection," said Dr. Jennifer Payne, the lead researcher from EMBL Australia and the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute.

Researchers linked vancomycin to a chemoattractant called formyl peptide. This antibiotic binds to the bacteria's surface. They also studied golden staph infections which are one of the most problematic antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

"We've been working on using dual-function antibiotic-chemoattractant 'hybrids', which improve the recruitment of neutrophils and increase the engulfing and killing of the bacteria," said Dr. Payne.

Immunotherapeutics are being used to combat the superbug threat Credit: Monash University

"By stimulating our powerful immunity system in this manner with the immunotherapeutic antibiotic, we have shown in mouse models that it is 2-fold more efficient than using the antibiotic alone at one fifth of the dose," stated Associate Professor Max Cryle at Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute.

Associate Professor Cryle stated that "this very promising new avenue in research is bringing many potential benefits to the ever increasing threat of drug resistant superbugs."

VESKI funding and Melbourne sister city foundation funding were key to Dr. Payne's trip to Boston. There, he learned and collaborated with Associate Professor Daniel Irima and Dr. Felix Ellett who are Harvard experts in microfluidic research.

"Microfluidics was a breakthrough in this research because it allowed us create an infection-on a chip to monitor the recruitment and kill MRSA-resistant immune cells. Dr. Payne said that it was exactly the same as what would happen in our bodies.

Partner are needed to support this research and to develop a preventative anti-biotic strategy in intensive care to protect the most vulnerable.

Monash University has the IP rights to the patent that covers the immunotherapeutic.

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More information: Antibiotic-chemoattractants enhance neutrophil clearance of Staphylococcus aureus, Nature Communications (2021). Journal information: Nature Communications Antibiotic-chemoattractants enhance neutrophil clearance of Staphylococcus aureus,(2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-26244-5