Rutgers researcher studies pathogen-eating bacteria
Two different bacteria may soon be used to fight drug-resistant pathogens, helping treat infections that are currently difficult to manage.
Daniel Kadouri, researcher with the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, is studying the clinical application of predatory bacteria that could potentially fight their drug-resistant counterparts.
Kadouri collaborated with Nancy Connell, a professor in the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, to research Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus and Micavibrio aeruginosavorus, both of which might be able to attack certain disease-causing bacteria.
Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus is considered one of the fastest moving organisms, which only attacks gram-negative bacteria like E. Coli, he said.These bacteria treats drug-resistant ones as a food source.
The mechanism of penetration utilized by these predatory bacteria is still theorized, Kadouri said.
One theory proposes that the predatory bacteria use brute force to penetrate its prey. The other theory puts forward the idea that predatory bacteria use proteolytic enzymes, which digest or breakdown protein that melt the outside membrane of drug-resistant bacteria, Kadouri said.
The second bacteria Kadouri is studying, Micavibrio aeruginosavorus, will attach or leech to its prey and eat them, he said.
“They attack almost every clinically relevant, gram-negative pathogen out there.” he said.
These include bacteria found in wounds, lung infections, burns and food borne pathogens like E.Coli and Salmonella. Many of the pathogens that causes these diseases are now drug-resistant, meaning traditional medicines are ineffective in treating them.
Predatory bacteria can attack drug-resistant pathogens because the pathway of resistance to antibiotics varies from the pathway of predation, he said.
“They can attack essentially, what is known as biofilm which is a basic bacteria that attaches to a surface,” Kadouri said.
Biofilms — such as plaque on teeth or infected wounds — cannot be penetrated by antimicrobial soaps or medicines, but the predatory bacteria can do so effectively, he said. The predatory bacteria are not toxic to animals, are not pathogenic and the immune system does not view them as a threat.
“There’s a huge increase in bacteria that become resistant to therapeutics," he said. "For the last hundred years, we’ve been practicing medicine with the ability to treat infection with antibiotics. Before the discovery of antibiotics, infection was the number one killer.”
Predatory bacteria can be used to keep food and drinking water clean as well, he said. They are not limited to simply medical applications.
The management of infections using antibiotics is the most important factor contributing to antibiotic resistance according to the CDC. The overuse of antibiotics puts selective pressure on bacteria to build resistance, Kadouri said.
The predatory bacteria would be applied to areas that would have drug resistant bacteria either topically or systemically, he said.
According to the CDC, 50 percent of antibiotics are prescribed when they are not necessary and without proper dosage or duration. The use of antibiotics to promote growth of livestock rather than treat infection is contributing to drug resistance.
Microorganisms compete with other microorganisms for resources and space, according to Nature Review: Microbiology.
Penicillin was the first commercialized antibiotic discovered in 1928 and distributed in 1945. It was considered a drug that would create a future without infectious diseases, according to the CDC.
The discoverer of penicillin, Alan Fleming, warned the public in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech that bacteria has the potential to evolve resistance to antibiotics.
“The research into new therapeutics, new antimicrobials and new antibiotics is almost zero,” Kadouri said.
The reasoning is that penicillin is expensive to bring a new drug to the market and pharmaceutical companies do not see a return on investment funding antibiotics.
Kadouri is unsure whether it will be effective over a long period of time or on an infection that is already well established. The study of predatory bacteria shows a great reduction of the burden of drug resistant pathogen in the lungs, he said.
But this is an important first step to demonstrating that predatory bacteria is non-toxic and efficient in a controlled study, he said. Kadouri is still currently studying resistance to the predatory bacteria, but does not see any resistance to what he says is “brute force” by the drug resistant bacteria.
Hernan Guarderas is a School of Arts and Sciences senior, majoring in journalism and media studies. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum. See more on Twitter @hguarderas93.