Engineered Liposomes: Antibiotics Substitute?

The last century was with no doubt ‘the antibiotic era’.  All known major antibiotic drug classes were identified. Extensive use of antibiotics resulted in a considerable decline in mortality and morbidity from common bacterial infections. However, that era is no more. In this new era, antibiotic resistance is very common and the number of new antibiotics is also diminishing. Therefore we are exposed to double threat to our continued protection from bacterial pathogens.  A simple bacterial infection like pneumonia might thus become serious without the protective antibiotics. In addition to limit the spread of resistance through more cautious use of our current weapon, it is becoming increasingly important to identify new classes of antibiotics and to develop alternative antimicrobial strategies that can replace antibiotics as they become ineffective. Therefore an alternative therapeutic concepts leading to bacterial abolition is of prime importance.

A new study from the University of Bern has developed a novel substance, other than antibiotics, for the treatment of severe bacterial infections. As this substance is not an antibiotic, it would prevent the development of antibiotic resistance. The team of international scientists has tested this novel substance, a nano-particle, to target directly to bacterial toxins, a novel approach of treatment of bacterial infections. The scientists engineered an artificial nano-particles made of lipids, “liposomes” that closely resemble the membrane of host cells. These liposomes act as traps for bacterial toxins and so are able to sequester and neutralize them instantly. Without toxins, the bacteria become harmless and can be eliminated easily by the host’s own immune system.

In clinical medicine, liposomes are used widely as a vehicle to deliver specific medication into the body. However in this study, artificial liposomes are created to attract bacterial toxins and thus protect host cells from a hazardous toxin attack. The toxins are attracted to the liposomes, and once they are attached, they can be eliminated easily without causing any danger to the host. Since the bacteria are not targeted directly, the liposomes do not promote the development of bacterial resistance, which is definitely another advantage.

The whole study is conducted on mice and needs to be tested in human before it can be used as a therapy. It is observed that mice treated with the liposomes survived from fatal septicaemia without any additional antibiotic therapy. This study is promising and no doubt has huge application side, particularly at this era, when antibiotic resistance, one of the pre-eminent public health concerns, is so prevalent.

 

Journal Reference:

Brian D Henry, Daniel R Neill, Katrin Anne Becker, Suzanna Gore, Laura Bricio-Moreno, Regan Ziobro, Michael J Edwards, Kathrin Mühlemann, Jörg Steinmann, Burkhard Kleuser, Lukasz Japtok, Miriam Luginbühl, Heidi Wolfmeier, André Scherag, Erich Gulbins, Aras Kadioglu, Annette Draeger, Eduard B Babiychuk.Engineered liposomes sequester bacterial exotoxins and protect from severe invasive infections in miceNature Biotechnology, 2014; DOI:10.1038/nbt.3037

 

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Arunima Maiti

Arunima Maiti

Biomedical scientist with special interest in reproductive biology.

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