An antibiotic called thanatin attacks the way the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria is built. Researchers at the University of Zurich have now found out that this happens through a previously unknown mechanism. Thanatin, produced naturally by the spined soldier bug, can therefore be used to develop new classes of antibiotics.
The global emergence of multi-drug resistant bacteria is posing a growing threat to human health and medicine. “Despite huge efforts from academic researchers and pharmaceutical companies, it has proven very difficult to identify effective new bacterial targets for antibiotic discovery,” says John A. Robinson from the Department of Chemistry at UZH. “One of the major challenges is identifying new mechanisms of antibiotic action against dangerous Gram-negative bacteria.” This group of bacteria includes a number of dangerous pathogens, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which causes life-threatening lung infections, and pathogenic Escherichia coli strains.