AUG 11, 2020 4:40 PM PDT

Scientists Discover Key Gene Behind Antibiotic Resistance

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Scientists from Oxford University have shown that a single gene can make some strains of Staphylococcus aureus (the bacteria responsible for a large portion of antibiotic-resistant infections in hospitals) evolve high levels of resistance to an antibiotic known as ciprofloxacin. 

For their research, the scientists observed how over 200 isolates of S. aureus evolved resistance to the broad-spectrum antibiotic, ciprofloxacin, in lab conditions. Seeing that different strains became resistant at different rates, genome sequencing and gene expression profiling helped them identify key candidate genes perhaps responsible for antibiotic resistance. 

Further experiments with genetically engineered strains of the bacteria then made it possible to confirm the importance of one key gene- norA- that pumps antibiotics out of bacterial cells. To confirm its role, the scientists demonstrated that chemically inhibiting the norA ‘efflux pump’ could actually prevent bacteria from evolving resistance under lab conditions.

"The key breakthrough moment in this project came when we found that a single gene, norA, could play such a big role in evolvability, in spite of the fact that S.aureus genomes contain more than 2,000 genes, many of which vary between isolates.” says Professor Craig Maclean, one of the study’s authors. 

“Although all of our results supported the idea that norA underpins evolvability, it was nonetheless surprising to see how effectively norA inhibitors could prevent resistance from evolving in the lab."

The authors note, however, that their study is not without flaws. To begin, the drug they used to suppress norA function (reserpine) is not yet approved by the FDA, and so can not be used in human trials. Furthermore, it is possible that anti-evolution drugs will be less effective in real life than in lab tests, as it may be challenging to get both antibiotics and anti-evolution drugs to the same tissue at the same time.

Nevertheless, the researchers hope that their results will inspire clinical researchers to test the role of efflux pumps in the evolution of antibiotic resistance during infections. They are currently following up on their results to better understand the mechanism behind the gene, and others like it. 

 

Sources: PhysNature Communications

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
You May Also Like
NOV 09, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
COVID-19 Vaccine by Pfizer More than 90% Effective
NOV 09, 2020
COVID-19 Vaccine by Pfizer More than 90% Effective
A preliminary analysis of Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine shows that it can prevent over 90% of people from c ...
DEC 17, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Molecular Mechanism Behind Ketamine for Depression Discovered
DEC 17, 2020
Molecular Mechanism Behind Ketamine for Depression Discovered
Over 30% of people with major depressive disorder are resistant to serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI's), the curre ...
DEC 20, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Antifungal Drug May Treat Cystic Fibrosis
DEC 20, 2020
Antifungal Drug May Treat Cystic Fibrosis
A fungal-targeting drug was shown to improve symptoms of cystic fibrosis particularly key biomarkers in lung tissue cult ...
DEC 31, 2020
Immunology
Arthritis Medication Resolves Previously Untreatable Skin Condition
DEC 31, 2020
Arthritis Medication Resolves Previously Untreatable Skin Condition
Bumpy, inflamed, ring-shaped lesions on the skin—granuloma annulare (GA) is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition ...
JAN 01, 2021
Microbiology
A New Type of Antibiotics Help the Immune System Fight Pathogens
JAN 01, 2021
A New Type of Antibiotics Help the Immune System Fight Pathogens
Reporting in Nature, scientists have identified a new group of compounds that may help us get out of the antibiotic-resi ...
JAN 11, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Ginger May Help Slow Lupus or Antiphospholipid Syndrome Progression
JAN 11, 2021
Ginger May Help Slow Lupus or Antiphospholipid Syndrome Progression
Naturally occurring chemicals make more appealing medicines for many people, but there is not always evidence that they' ...
Loading Comments...