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International researchers uncover potential to ‘switch off’ bacterial infection

An international research team has made a groundbreaking discovery that could revolutionise the treatment of dangerous bacterial infections by switching off the bacteria’s ability to replicate itself.

Researchers from the Stockholm University-led study have uncovered a new type of enzyme that is found in certain types of bacteria responsible for urinary tract infections and bacterial pneumonia.

According to Australian National University researcher Dr Nick Cox, who makes up part of the team, the discovery has significant implications for medicine.

“Many of the bacteria that use this newly discovered group of RNR (ribonucleotide reductase enzyme) are pathogens that invade mucosal surfaces in the respiratory system and genitalia,” he said.

“This discovery should, in the future, allow researchers to develop new drugs that target this new form of RNR – killing the bacterial infection by switching off the bacteria’s ability to make DNA and, in turn, replicate.”

VideoAfter Teresa Zurberg experienced a C. difficile infection, she trained her dog to sniff and detect the bacteria in a Vancouver hospital. Zurberg says Angus has discovered the bacteria in places no one has thought to look. .

Though still in its early stages, the study shows great promise for hard-to-treat bacteria, such as those from the mollicutes family that use this type of RNR exclusively. The tiny bacteria measure just 1/10,000 of a millimetre in length and lack a cell wall, which is the usual target for many antibiotics.

The study was a collaboration between researchers at Stockholm University and Karolinska Institute in Sweden, the Max Planck Institute in Germany, ANU and Stanford University of the United States.

The research was published in the Nature journal today.

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