Bacteriophage viruses may become new antibiotics

(ORDO NEWS) — Bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria, can be used as an alternative treatment option if antibiotics fail.

Researchers at the Leiden Institute for Biology have studied the structure and function of a bacteriophage virus that can attack the bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae.

It is of concern to the WHO for its resistance to antibiotics.

It will soon be 100 years since Alexander Fleming discovered the first antibiotic, penicillin. Antibiotics have gotten incredibly stronger since then, but many bacteria have gotten even stronger.

A group of scientists from the Leiden Institute of Biology is studying a bacteriophage capable of fighting Friedlander’s bacillus (Klebsiella pneumoniae).

This bacterium is usually found in our digestive tract and can cause damage if it spreads to other parts of the body.

There, it can cause various infections such as pneumonia and inflammation of the urinary tract. The bacillus is of concern to the WHO because it is resistant to a range of antibiotics.

If it is impossible to defeat a bacterium with a conventional antibiotic, it is worth trying to “set” a natural enemy on it – a virus. This is what scientists are trying to do. And they are close to success.

Phage therapy as an alternative to antibiotics

Bacteriophage viruses may become new antibiotics 2
Skirmish in the Microworld

Study co-author Ariane Briegel (Leiden Institute for Biology) says: “According to the WHO, the bacterium is of concern as it becomes increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

Phage therapy is a potential alternative to fight bacterial infections when antibiotics are ineffective.”

Scientists used an artificial neural network to study the bacteriophage. “At the tip of a bacteriophage is a complex network of tails that play a critical role in infecting bacteria.

While little is known about how these tails work – their structures are very diverse. We have mapped seven such tail structures.

We then trained the neural network on seven examples to distinguish between the tail structures of other phages,” the scientists explain.

The researchers believe that the specific bacteriophage ϕKp24 is quite capable of attacking the coli, but their plans are much more ambitious. Briegel says: “The problem with phage therapy is that bacteriophages do not act on all bacteria, even those belonging to the same species.

But by understanding how at least one bacteriophage works, we hope to understand how others work, and we can treat people with them.”

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