An Alternative to Antibiotics?
Scientists in Australia have announced the discovery of a powerful infection killer that they say has the potential to become an alternative to antibiotics. Sheena McGowan of Monash University and colleagues published their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers report that bacteriophages, which are viruses that infect bacteria by injecting genetic material,can deploy antibodies called lysins that "degrade the bacterial cell wall and facilitate virus egress from the host . . . When applied exogenously [externally], these enzymes destroy susceptible microbes and, accordingly, have potential as therapeutic agents."
The most potent lysin identified by the team is PlyC, an enzyme assembled from two components, PlyCA and PlyCB. The find was a surprise, and the scientists wrote that the presence of eight cell wall-binding domains together with two catalytic domains "may explain the extraordinary potency of the PlyC holoenyzme toward target bacteria."
Futurity.org quotes McGowan as saying, “Scientists have been trying to decipher the structure of PlyC for more than 40 years. Finally knowing what it looks like, and how it attacks bacteria, is a huge step forward.”