SCIENTISTS in Japan may have discovered a new way to fight bacteria without the use of antibiotics, a study published in the journal Scientific Reports said.
A team of researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology focused on the formation of flagella, tail- or hair-like protrusions from the bodies of bacteria that serve as “propellers” and allow bacteria to move.
The study’s lead author Fadel Samatey said that there is a clear correlation between the motility of bacteria and infection rates, and so the research team looked for ways to stop the formation of flagella, testing their ideas on Salmonella bacteria.
The key they found is a protein in bacteria called FlgA, which forms a ring that allows a developing flagellum to pass through the bacterium’s outer membrane. By artificially altering the molecular geometry of the protein and then reintroducing it back into the bacterium, the ring does not form properly, leaving the bacterium unable to move.
The next stage of the research, the study’s authors said, will be to find ways to alter the FlgA protein externally, such as developing a molecule that can be incorporated into a pill. If successful, the researchers said, their work could have positive implications for the fight against the growing number of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.