Galway researchers discover potential new method to treat superbug infections

Researchers have shown how the building blocks of DNA can boost penicillin-type antibiotics in treating MRSA

Scientists at University of Galway have detailed a new discovery with the potential to improve treatment options for superbug MRSA infections with penicillin-type antibiotics that have become ineffective on their own.

The research has been published in the flagship journal of the American Society for Microbiology, mBio. Professor James P O’Gara and Dr Merve S Zeden, in the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, University of Galway, led the study.

Professor James P O’Gara, Professor of Microbiology at the National University of Ireland, Galway

Professor of Microbiology O’Gara said: “This discovery is important because it has revealed a potentially new way to treat MRSA infections with penicillin-type drugs, which remain the safest and most effective antibiotics.”

The antimicrobial resistance (AMR) crisis is one of the greatest threats to human health with superbugs like MRSA placing a significant burden on global healthcare resources. MRSA kills over 350 people in Ireland every year.

The microbiology research team at University of Galway showed that MRSA could be much more efficiently killed by penicillin-type antibiotics when combined with purines, which are the building blocks for DNA.

Dr Zeden added: “Purine nucleosides, Adenosine, Xanthosine, Guanosine are sugar versions of the building blocks of DNA, and our work showed that they interfere with signalling systems in the bacterial cell which are required for antibiotic resistance.”

This study was recently highlighted in the American Society for Microbiology’s This Week in Microbiology (TWiM) podcast. The discussion noted the drugs derived from purines are already used to treat some viral infections and cancers.

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