Imagine the desperation of trying to fight lethal infections when antibiotics fail to work.
That scenario commonly found with "hospital superbugs" may well improve thanks to a discovery by a research team at the University of British Columbia, in collaboration with UBC spin-off company Inimex Pharmaceuticals, that has identified a peptide that can fight infection by boosting the body's own immune system.
"Antibiotics are now under threat because of the explosion in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A third of all deaths on this planet are the result of infection so there is an urgent need to create new therapies," says Robert Hancock, principal investigator and Canada Research Chair in Pathogenomics and Antimicrobials. "The beauty of this peptide is that it acts on the host to trigger a protective response and doesn't act on bacteria directly. That means it's unlikely bacteria will become resistant to it."
The team found that a peptide, or chain of amino acids, they have dubbed innate defense regulator peptide (IDR-1), can increase innate immunity without triggering harmful inflammation, and offer protection both before and after infection is present.
The discovery, in animal models, will be published March 25 in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
Researchers tested the peptide's effectiveness against Staphylococcus aureus including MRSA; a superbug called vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE); and Salmonella. In Staph and VRE infections, although bacteria were not completely eradicated, IDR-1 significantly reduced bacteria counts and mortality, when given either 24-48 hours before or four hours after infection began. In Salmonella, the peptide offered significant protection when administered prior to infection setting in.
Data showed that IDR-1 activates several signaling pathways to stimulate infection-clearing chemokines a chemical mediator that mobilizes immune response.