June 14, 2005

Ah, Shut Up!

Most people know by now that our over reliance on anti-biotics have produced super-bacteria, which are harder and harder to kill. Well,bacteria may have met their match, and anti-biotics aren't part of the battle. Rather, a Hebrew University researcher, Adel Jabbour, has synthesized a chemical compound that interrupts the communication system between bacteria. Hey, I didn't even know that bacteria could communicate! But apparently they can and that is what leads to the proliferation of the bacteria.

From the article:

Most human and animal diseases are associated with bacteria that are assembled in "communities" called biofilms that attach themselves to many surfaces, such as live tissues, implants and teeth. Biofilm can also be found on non-biological surfaces such as water pipes or air-conditioning ducts.

Only recently has it been discovered that bacteria that accumulate in biofilms have a communications network between them called "quorum sensing," which controls their collective activity. These sensing signals control the physiology and pathogenicity of the bacteria in the biofilms. A boron-based molecule that is produced by these bacteria, called auto inducer-2, controls the signals in this quorum sensing process.

Jabbour has succeeded in synthesizing modified chemical compounds, resembling the structure of the natural auto inducer-2, that can disrupt the signaling. By altering the molecular structure in these compounds, Jabbour was able to show that one can control the quorum sensing responses and "trick" the bacteria.

The modified compounds distort the signaling that sets off the bacterial changes, making it possible to seriously hamper the bacterial action, or, if so desired, even enhance it (in those cases where the bacteria are beneficial).

Control over quorum sensing provides a promising avenue for future treatment of bacterial pathogenic activity without having to resort to antibiotic drugs and their accompanying disadvantages. On the other hand, enhancing quorum sensing could prove useful in agriculture, biotechnology and the food industry, where increasing bacterial activity could be beneficial.

Is this a case of the pen being mightier than the sword?

Posted by Rachel Ann at June 14, 2005 02:15 PM

That's way cool, Rachel Anne!

Posted by: RP at June 14, 2005 09:53 PM
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