WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2012 — The latest episode in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) award-winning Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions podcast series describes a potential new approach for treating urinary tract infections (UTIs) — which affect millions of people annually — without traditional antibiotics. Because it involves non-antibiotic compounds, the approach would not contribute to the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or “superbugs.”
In the podcast, Ernst explains that antibiotics are the mainstay treatment for UTIs. Bacteria, however, are developing resistance to common antibiotics, with the emergence of superbugs that shrug off some of the most powerful new antibiotics.
Thus, the scientists decided to try a new approach — developing substances that target bacteria virulence factors, inhibiting them from sticking to the inside of the urinary bladder. Hence, microbes are not able to launch an infection. In addition, this new class of antimicrobials is expected to have a reduced potential for the emergence of resistant microbes.
The scientists describe the development of anti-adhesion molecules that specifically interfere with the attachment of bacteria to human bladder cells. The most potent of the substances prevented a UTI from developing in mice (stand-ins for humans in this kind of experiment) for more than eight hours. In the in vivo treatment study, a very low dose reduced the amount of bacteria in the bladder of the animals by almost 10,000 times, which is comparable to the standard antibiotic treatment with ciprofloxacin.
Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions is a series of podcasts describing some of the 21st century’s most daunting problems, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions. Global Challenges is the centerpiece in an alliance on sustainability between ACS and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Global Challenges is a sweeping panorama of global challenges that includes dilemmas such as providing a hungry, thirsty world with ample supplies of safe food and clean water; developing alternatives to petroleum to fuel society; preserving the environment and assuring a sustainable future for our children and improving human health.