Research from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research has been published in Nature Communications and the Oxford University Press-published Nucleic Acids Research.

Indian scientists make important discovery in potentially fighting drug resistanceImage for representation
Health Discovery Thursday, August 29, 2019 - 13:44

Recent research conducted by a group of scientists in Pune could help in tackling drug resistant infections. India has witnessed a spate of drug-resistant infections — infections and illnesses which do not respond to the typically used antibiotics — for over a decade. However, it was only earlier this year that the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that antibiotic drug resistance was a major cause for concern to public health. India in particular has shown some of the highest number of cases of resistance as a result of excessive unregulated use of these medications.

A team of scientists from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), under the guidance of Dr Saikrishna Kayarat, has determined the structure of a complex protein, called McrBC, which plays a large role in preventing infections in certain organisms. This discovery, the scientists say, could dramatically alter how drug resistant infections are treated.

According to researchers, the high rates of resistance mean that new ways to combat resistance must be researched and utilised. One such method is through the use of bacteriophages, which are viruses that exclusively infect bacteria. These viruses inject their DNA into the bacteria, in an attempt to take over the bacterial cell and replicate. However, there are certain compounds naturally found in the bacteria which prevents the virus from replicating. The McrBC protein is one such compound. This protein has a large role to play in the bacterial defense system.

“We have been able to identify the structure of the McrBC protein, and now we can use this information to better understand how it works in preventing infections in the bacteria,” adds Dr Saikrishna, “It is essentially a molecular scissor which cuts invading foreign DNA. If we can understand how this process better, it can be applied in humans to combat resistance.”

Just as the human immune system has its mechanisms for warding off infections, bacteria also has its own defense mechanisms. By understanding the specific role that McrBC plays in protecting the organism against an invading pathogen, this knowledge can potentially be applied in clinical practice to fight multidrug resistance in humans.

Antibiotics work by targeting the integrity of the cell wall of bacteria, which thereby prevents the bacteria from replicating.

“Indiscriminate use of antibiotics has led to widespread resistance to antibiotics,” says Dr Saikrishna, the head of the research team behind the discovery at IISER. According to the WHO, India shows some of the highest rates of bacterial diseases in the world, as a result of which antibiotics play a large role in healthcare. This has resulted in inappropriate, excess, and unsupervised use of antimicrobial and antibiotic drugs, which has in turn led to an increase in the burden of antibiotic resistant infections in the country.

A study published in the Indian Journal of Community Medicine in January 2019 stated that over 10 million annual deaths will be seen due to antimicrobial resistance by the year 2050.

The findings of the teams research have recently been published in two international journals, Nature Communications and the Oxford University Press-published Nucleic Acids Research.

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