UCC make superbug breakthrough

David Cotter

Photos of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) chemistry and biological laboratories. Additionally, staff portraits and laboratory group photos were taken.

Researchers in University College Cork (UCC) celebrate a breakthrough with respect to fighting superbugs.

The researchers in UCC have developed molecules that strengthens the effect of existing antibiotics by up to 16 times against these superbugs. 

The bacteria have become more resistant due to a biofilm that they produce which is used to protect against antibiotics. 

These molecules interfere with the bacteria’s communication systems so that they don’t produce the biofilm at all. 

The research was carried out by a postgraduate researcher, Conor Horgan, and a Marie Sklodowska-Curie postdoctoral fellow, Dr Pavan Kumar.

Dr Tim O’Sullivan, who spearheaded the research explained the outcome of his work which included multiple strains of superbugs. 

One of the strains the new molecules were tested on was Burkholderia cepacia. This bug can be life-threatening to those with cystic fibrosis.

The discovery is an extension of a collaboration with Dr Pol Huedo and microbiologists at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB).

Dr O’Sullivan is hopeful that it will be possible to treat other infections in this manner as well.

He states that “by virtue of the fact that you can demonstrate it in these strains, it’s potentially applicable to other strains of bacteria and other types of infections.”

The team is now continuing their research to try to improve their molecules and find other strains of bacteria that could potentially be targeted.

“Superbug” is a term used to describe bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics. These superbugs are a problem in Irish hospitals due to the lack of effective treatments. The gravity of the situation has been highlighted by the World Health Organisation, among many others.

David Cotter

Image Credit: Flickr