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Scientists enhance ability of antibiotics to defeat resistant types of bacteria using molecules called PPMOs

Sept. 16, 2016 – Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have developed a strategy to overcome a key defense that drug-resistant bacteria use to fend off antibiotic attack.

Antibiotic resistance has become a major public health problem – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 2 million illnesses are caused in the U.S. each year by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, resulting in 23,000 deaths.

The study findings, published online in PLOS Biology, describe how two UT Southwestern research teams created a synthetic compound that blocks a bacterial pump used to expel antibiotics. Bacteria that use these “efflux pumps” and that are treated with the new compound become sensitive to antibiotics they were previously resistant to.

This is the first time researchers have tailored one of these synthetic compounds, part of a class called PPMOs or peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers, to target a specific efflux pump found in bacterial cell walls, said Dr. David Greenberg, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Microbiology at UT Southwestern and a senior author of the study.

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