Dr. Britigan part of landmark antibiotic resistance study

November 30, 2011

College of Medicine Dean Bradley Britigan, M.D., was an author on a landmark study that has determined why bacteria are antibiotic resistant and how disrupting key bacterial functions could lead to more effective antibiotics.

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Bradley Britigan, M.D.
The study appears in a recent issue of Science and focuses on the role that starvation plays in the ability of bacteria to resist antibiotics. (Read the full study abstract.)

Starvation was previously thought to produce resistance because most antibiotics target cellular functions needed for growth. When starved cells stop growing, these targets are no longer active.

Starvation alarm a key to survival

But the team that Dr. Britigan was a part of found that bacteria starvation initiates a reaction that actually lets the bugs resist antibiotics.

This new knowledge "may provide new approaches to negate bacterial resistance to antibiotics, a growing problem in treating patients," said Dr. Britigan, who worked on the study while he was still at the University of Cincinnati.

A new treatment target?

In particular, the team found that the starvation alarm mechanism in the bacteria may be a potential target for treatment.

In the study, the team shut this mechanism down in sample bacteria and then starved them. These bacteria proved easier to kill than those with active starvation alarm mechanisms.

In the study, Dr. Britigan worked with researchers from the:

  • University of Washington;
  • University of Cincinnati;
  • Northwestern University;
  • McGill University; and
  • INRS Armand Frappier.

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