Imagine a world filled with indestructible germs.
If you think this nightmare scenario is straight out of a science fiction novel, think again. The ‘superbug’ is closer to reality than originally thought, and this has set alarm bells ringing within the life science community.
In August 2010, British researchers made public their discovery of new antibiotic-resistant enteric bacteria containing NDM-1. The findings, which were published in The Lancet, confirmed previous suspicions of the existence of microorganisms that are immune to available drugs and medication.
NDM-1, or New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase, is an enzyme found inside different types of bacteria, including E. coli. The enzyme renders the bacteria resistant to antibiotics with beta-lactam rings, including carbapenems, a class of drugs often used in emergency cases as a last resort. The bacteria also have plasmid or chromosomal resistance to other forms of antibiotics such as aminoglycosides and streptomycin, thus making them superbugs.
Most of the cases involving these superbugs seem to be linked to patients who have travelled or sought medical treatment in the Indian subcontinent. A small number of cases have occurred in UK hospitals as well, thus increasing fears of a global endemic. The NDM-1 gene is reported to be able to jump from one strain of bacteria to another with ease, and researchers worry that infections from the multi-resistant strains of bacteria may be untreatable.
Using SynaTate™, we can highlight regions in the NDM-1 gene which code for antibiotic-resistant proteins. Researchers can then focus on these annotated regions to design drugs that could counteract the properties that accord resistance to the bacteria.