Photo worth seeing: A bacterial peptide against bacteria

The lantibiotic Epilancin A37 glows in green. It accumulates in the blue-colored cells of the corynebacteria to kill them from within. © University Hospital Bonn / Jan-Samuel Puls

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial diseases such as pneumonia or meningitis. These are intended to kill harmful bacteria in the body and inhibit their growth. There is a risk of developing resistance when taking such a drug. The pathogens develop defense measures against the active ingredient and thus survive the treatment. The desired effect of the antibiotic is lost. For this reason, research is being carried out into substances that can work more effectively against bacterial pathogens.

Researchers at the University Hospital of Bonn (UKB), the University of Bonn and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) have now looked at so-called lantibiotics. These are antibacterial peptides that can specifically attack individual pathogens. This makes them different from broad-spectrum antibiotics, which affect a larger spectrum of bacteria. During its investigations, the research team discovered the lantibiotic Epilancin A37.

Epilancin A37 is produced by staphylococci, a type of bacteria found on the skin and mucous membranes. The lantibiotic is particularly effective against corynebacteria. This takes targeted action against the main competitors of staphylococci. Both types of bacteria are part of a person’s skin microbiome. The specific destruction caused by the lantibiotic is due to its mechanism of action. The substance penetrates the cells of the corynebacteria, accumulates there and destroys the bacteria from the inside. This means that only this bacterium is specifically killed without harming others. In the photo you can see the peptide in green accumulating in the Coryne cells.

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