Researchers at the University of New South Wales have found that compounds known as furanones isolated from the seaweed Delisea pulchra can prevent the bacteria that cause cholera from switching on their disease-causing mechanisms.
It seems likely that furanones can have the same effect on many other bacteria, such as those that cause food poisoning and cystic fibrosis-related infections.
Furanones do not kill such microbes but simply "jam" their ability to send signals to each other. This means as well that their use is far less likely to create the drug-resistance problems that plague current anti-microbial treatments.
"This is very exciting as these are the first antimicrobials of their type that have been shown to be effective," says Dr Diane McDougald, a Senior Research Associate at the UNSW Centre for Marine Biofouling and Bio-innovation. Dr McDougald is conducting the research in association with UNSW's Professor Staffan Kjelleberg and Professor Peter Steinberg.
"The fact that furanones prevent bacterial communication means that they may be effective against a wide range of bacteria that have communication systems, such as the bacteria that cause golden Staph infections and tuberculosis," she says.
"These bacteria have become resistant to many antibiotics and are becoming harder and harder to treat.
"Because furanones don't kill the bacteria, there is no selection pressure for them to develop resistance. Indeed, in a million years of evolution, no natural resistance has been developed by bacteria to these furanones in the natural environment."
The team has found that when the bacteria that cause cholera Vibrio cholerae are exposed to furanones, t
Contact: Dr. Diane McDougald
University of New South Wales