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A new way to fight bacteria
By Jerry Brownstein
The challenge of treating deadly bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics is being met by a new drug that activates your own immune system to do the job. This new ‘immunobiotic’ hunts down and eliminates these deadly bacteria by activating the body’s natural defences. Researchers at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania (US) fused part of an existing antibiotic with a molecule that sticks to the bacteria. This molecule also attracts immune system antibodies that fight bacteria. Sticking to the bacteria allows the drug to inflict direct damage on it, while at the same time the molecule is acting like a beacon for your antibodies to arrive en masse and finish the job.
“The inspiration for this discovery came from the recent success of cancer immunotherapy,” said Marcos Pires, who led the study. He is referring to the 2018 Nobel Prize for medicine that was given to the scientists who created cancer immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to destroy cancer cells. This study wanted to find out whether a similar system could use the immune system to help antibiotics work more efficiently. Pires and his team tested the new compound on a range of bacteria that the World Health Organization has designated as high-priority because they are so resistant to antibiotics. While the new drug has yet to be tested in humans, the researchers saw no signs of toxicity when it was tested on animal cells.