August 05, 2012
SYDNEY — Researchers in Australia say they have made a critical discovery in the search for an alternative to antibiotics. Scientists say it is important to find new ways to treat illnesses without antibiotics, many of which are becoming less effective because microbes are becoming more resistant.
A team at Monash University in Melbourne believes an antibacterial viral protein called PlyC could be used as an alternative to antibiotics.
It was first identified as a possible treatment for infections in 1925 but research was abandoned following the discovery of antibiotics.
After six years studying the structure of the protein with colleagues at the Rockefeller University and University of Maryland, Australian researchers have worked out how it kills the bacteria that cause sore throats, pneumonia and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.
Dr. Sheena McGowan from Monash University describes the protein as a potent bacterial killing machine that resembles a flying saucer carrying a pair of warheads.
It works by locking onto the surface of the bacterium and then boring though the exterior to destroy it.
McGowan says it could be invaluable when conditions such as pneumonia do not respond to traditional treatments.