Synthetic sugar could be next weapon against superbugs

In lab tests, the sugars caused bacteria cell walls to break down, killing them.
By Stephen Feller  |  July 21, 2015 at 11:39 AM
share with facebook
share with twitter

BRISBANE, Australia, July 21 (UPI) -- Scientists at the University of Queensland have discovered a group of synthetic sugars that bind to and destroy bacteria cell walls, potentially discovering a new class of drugs to which superbugs can't develop resistance.

Researchers said that bacteria were less likely to develop resistance to drugs based on their own sugars.

"Bacteria have cell walls similar to the walls of a brick house, except instead of mortar the walls are held together by sugar polymers," said Matt Cooper, director of the IMB Center for Superbug Solutions at the University of Queensland, in a press release. "But if you add one of our modified sugar molecules, they stop the linking process, destroying the cell wall and killing the bacteria."

The researchers reviewed hundreds of sugar molecules designed by the biotechnology company Alchemia, looking for those that could kill bacteria while not harming humans, according to Dr. Johannes Zuegg, also of the IMB Center. The compounds researchers created from the sugars were shown with in vivo lab tests to kill bacteria while not harming other cells.

"Most molecules screened to become drugs have a flat, planar shape, whereas these molecules are three dimensional," Zuegg said, allowing for thousands of different combinations when designing drugs to interact with specific bacteria.

The study is published in Nature Communications.

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories