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Finding may lead to new approach in fight against superbugs

2012/04/23 18:07:59

Taipei, April 23 (CNA) An Academia Sinica research team recently published a study that could help develop drugs against bacteria, including those that are drug-resistant, Taiwan's top research institution said Monday.

The team, co-led by Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey and associate research fellow Ma Che, solved the crystal structure of the transglycosylase, an enzyme on the cell wall of bacteria, and its substrate, by studying the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

The transglycosylase enzyme and another cell wall enzyme, transpeptidase, are essential to bacteria survival, but most antibiotics currently target transpeptidase.

In recent years, however, "mutations in transpeptidase and other changes have resulted in antibiotic resistant bacteria," Academica Sinica said in a statement, prompting the institution's team to look more closely at transglycosylase.

At present, no antibiotics have been developed to target this enzyme, but the team said that with no mutations found in the transglycosylase areas of several drug-resistant bacteria, it could be a promising alternative.

By providing a new understanding of the transglycosylase enzyme, the study "lays the foundation for the development of inhibitors of the enzyme as antibiotics," the institution said.

Asked if the finding could help deal with so-called superbugs -- bacteria with very strong drug resistance -- Ma said the use of an enzyme-inhibiting compound to suppress growth of bacteria would theoretically also be applicable to them.

The team's study was published in the United States scholarly journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on April 9, Academia Sinica said.

(By Lin Szu-yu and Kay Liu)
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