Biofilms

Broad-spectrum bug biofilm buster

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Science  13 Jun 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6189, pp. 1239
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6189.1239-h

The deadly pathogen Staphylococcus aureus.

PHOTO: DAVID M. PHILLIPS/SCIENCE SOURCE

Imagine slime growing on your heart valves. Such infections, which happen all too often and are often deadly, can be eradicated by blocking stress responses in biofilm-producing bacteria—that is, fighting the bacteria's defenses. Unfortunately, however, there are no approved biofilm-busting drugs yet, so Fuente-Núñez et al. went looking for one. They knew that small positively charged synthetic peptides can stop biofilm formation in many antibiotic-resistant bacterial pathogens, such as Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Salmonella. When they performed a screening assay of small peptides, they found a candidate that acts on an important stress pathway. Bacteria use the pathway to synthesize the signaling nucleotide ppGpp. Without ppGpp, the bacteria have trouble forming biofilms and even staying alive. The candidate, peptide 1018, binds directly to ppGpp and degrades it, stopping deadly pathogens in their tracks.

PLOS Biol. 10, e1004152 (2014).

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