Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Uni Research Team Unlock the Secret to Infections and Why They Return

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Uni Research Team Unlock the Secret to Infections and Why They Return

Article excerpt

Byline: Katie Dickinson Reporter

ACENTURY after Sir Alexander Fleming made two of the most important medical breakthroughs, Newcastle scientists have unlocked the secret of how his discoveries may contribute to recurrent patient infections.

Fleming's best-known findings are the enzyme lysozyme - found in tears and many body secretions - and penicillin, perhaps the most significant medical revelation of all time.

Now, for the first time, experts at Newcastle University, whose study is published online today in Cell, have identified how lysozyme and penicillin could work in combination to cause recurrent infections.

It is hoped that this study will prompt a re-evaluation of looking at why some patients with health complaints, such as urinary tract or streptococcus infections, can become resistant to antibiotics. Both penicillin and lysozyme work on bacteria cell walls. Penicillin weakens the cell walls of dividing bacteria, so that they burst and die due to osmotic pressure.

Lysozyme is a small enzyme that attacks the same protective cell wall of a bacterium, causing it to degrade.

The study from the Errington Lab, based at Newcastle University's Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology, has revealed new features of both agents and how they can act in patients.

It is a development from previous work done in the Errington Lab on bacterial variants - called L-forms - which lack a cell wall and can grow if they have some protection, which human tissue allows.

The lab found that when bacteria are exposed to penicillin under conditions mimicking human tissue fluids they do not explode but slowly die because they are trapped in their own solidified wall.

If penicillin-treated cells in tissue fluid are exposed to lysozyme - found in places in the body where infections occur - the enzyme degrades the cell wall, allowing the bacterium to turn into a wall free L-form, which penicillin can't kill. …

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