Starving superbugs of iron prevents them from causing disease: Aussie study

2018-03-06 09:03:23 GMT2018-03-06 17:03:23(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

CANBERRA, March 6 (Xinhua) -- Starving superbugs of iron can make them vulnerable, Australian researchers have found.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, commonly known as superbugs, are responsible for 700,000 deaths globally a year, a figure that is projected to rise to 10 million every year by 2050 by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Katharina Richter, an expert from the University of Adelaide, targeted how the bacteria consume iron in an attempt to disrupt their ability to cause disease and ultimately kill them.

The approach has resulted in the successful destruction of superbugs such as golden staph in laboratory and animal studies.

"Iron is like chocolate for bacteria. It gives them energy to grow, cause disease, and withstand attacks from our immune systems and antibiotics," Richter said in a media release on Tuesday.

"Using two different compounds, we first starve the bacteria of iron and then feed them the bacterial equivalent of poisonous chocolate, which the hungry bacteria find irresistible."

Following the success of the approach in animal trials, it is now being trialled to help patients with antibiotic-resistant sinus infections.

Participants in the trial are administered the two compounds in the form of a wound-healing gel.

"The treatment is locally applied at the infection site, precisely where it is needed without interfering with the entire body," Richter said.

"In our studies so far, we haven't observed any side effects. Moreover, the risk for resistance is low as bacteria are unlikely to become resistant to their preferred food."

She said she is optimistic that the treatment can be refined to treat other superbug infections in humans.