In the UK, the molecular machinery used by ‘superbugs’ to resist chemicals designed to kill them could also help produce precursors for a new generation of nylon and other polymers, according to new research.
Scientists from the University of Leeds have collaborated with Australian researchers to identify ancient protein pumps that make infectious bacteria tough to treat, but which could be key to developing new environmentally-friendly polymers.
Bacteria, called ‘superbugs’, that are unaffected by antiseptics and antibiotics are a growing problem, but exactly how they develop resistance is often not fully understood.
Previous research by the University of Leeds and Macquarie University, Australia, revealed how a bacterium called Acinetobacter baumannii resisted chlorhexidine, a powerful hospital-grade antiseptic listed by the World Health Organisation as an “essential medicine”.
A. baumannii’s secret weapon, they found, is a protein called AceI, which sits on its surface and pumps out any chlorhexidine that gets inside. That was a surprise to researchers, because the protein has existed for millions of years longer than the antiseptic.