Scientists from Navarrabiomed - a joint research center between Public University of Navarra and the Government of Navarra - have characterized the sensory system that bacteria use to grow in the human body and cause an infection.
This work which has been published in the scientific journal Nature Communications and has been funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness, allows to better understand how bacteria adapt to different environmental conditions and will enable the development of more specific and effective antibiotics.
The study has been led by Dr. Iñigo Lasa, Navarrabiomed´ s Director and main researcher of the Microbial Pathogenesis Group. Also, researchers from the Agrobiotechnlogy Institute (UPNA-CSIC-Gobierno de Navarra), the Institute of Biomedicine of Valencia (CSIC) and the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, University of Glasgow, have been involved in the project.
Currently, one of the health problems on a global scale prioritized by the World Health Organization (WHO) is the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria that do not respond to antibiotic treatment.
Bacteria detect, respond and adapt to changes in their environment using sensory elements called two-component systems (TCS). This type of sensory systems is present in bacteria, fungi and plants, and not in animal cells. In the case of bacteria, TCSs control relevant cellular processes such as virulence or growth, which makes them targets for the design of new antimicrobial therapies.
The objective of the work has been to eliminate all TCSs, that is the complete sensory system, in Staphylococcus aureus, one of the main human pathogens according to the WHO and, afterwards, in the generation of a collection of bacteria each of which has a unique two-component system. This strategy has made possible the simplification of a complex sensorial network in each of its elements in order to identify the role of each of the systems and the connections between them.
Clinical application of the research
In relation to the clinical application, Iñigo Lasa points out to the development of new more specific antibiotics. "The fact that two-component systems are present in all pathogenic bacteria and not in the cells of our body can allow us to develop drugs that block these systems to prevent bacterial growth during infection, without causing any side effects on our cells", explains Lasa.
In this regard, bacteria generated in this study have been patented and the team is currently analyzing various marine compounds that might be included in the treatment and control of infections within clinical practice.
The research is part of the scientific activity of the Health Research Institute of Navarra (IdiSNA), a public-private organization for the promotion of biomedical research in Navarra, with Navarrabiomed and UPNA being members of it.
- Additional info: Behind the paper - Nature Microbiology: "Life without sensing. Can Staphylococcus aureus live without two-component sensorial system?"