Restoring Antibiotic Effectiveness is One Step Closer With New “Drug Pump”

One class of antibiotics being investigated is fluoroquinolones, but others will be studied soon.

A new way to counter hospital-borne infection has been found by revealing the structure of a protein used by bacteria to pump out antibiotics. A study describing the find was published recently in Nature Chemical Biology.The research team at New York University, NYU Grossman School of Medicine, and NYU Langone’s Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center, led by first author Doug Brawley, PhD, designed an early-stage therapeutic that sabotages the pump and restores the effectiveness of antibiotics. Brawley completed his doctoral thesis in the laboratories of senior authors, Da-Neng Wang, PhD, a professor in the Department of Cell Biology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, and, Nate Traaseth, PhD, a professor in the Department of Chemistry at New York University. Brawley is now the business development manager for Technology Opportunities and Ventures at NYU Langone Health. Brawley, Wang, and Traaseth talked to Infection Control Today® (ICT®) about the key findings of the study and what future research there will be.

“The major problem that we were tackling was in antibiotic resistance, which is a real problem that has emerged since the first antibiotic was introduced to patients 60 years ago or more,” “Since that point of that first introduction, there has been an emergence of antibiotic resistance. Said simply, our antibiotics don't work as well as they used to work. And that is because these bugs, these bacteria have gained resistance to the antibiotic.”

To explain the “drug pump,” Brawley told ICT®, “Bacteria have multiple mechanisms. And one mechanism is pumps. They have proteins that are expressed in their membranes, that act sort of as vacuum cleaners to kind of suck up antibiotics that are inside the bacterial cell and extrude them out--efflux them out. They are known as drug efflux pumps.”

The future research on the “drug pump” will be finding direct “ways to attack those resistance mechanisms in a direct manner, so that we can maybe even bring some of these antibiotics that have been deemed ineffective, back into the back onto the table back into the clinic,” Traaseth, told ICT®.

Wang concurred. “We are doing using the same approach with other pathogens; we hope to now generate more drug leads for others.” He also hopes to do more than investigate in the lab. He also hopes to get more students in science. “We also want to attract more young kids, high school students, elementary students into science not doing exacting science to help mankind.”