Research on bacteria can lead to new ways to treat infections and improve human health

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Interaction of Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Credit: Nova Southeastern University

New research from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) is working to understand human infections and unlock how bacteria „work together” to make these infections more difficult to treat. Understanding this symbiotic relationship may lead to better ways of treating various diseases.

The new study was recently published in the journal eLife.

„There are good bacteria and not so good bacteria,” says Robert Smith, Ph.D. and associate professor and research scientist, Cell Therapy Institute at NSU’s Kiran Patel College of Allopathic Medicine (NSU MD). „Bacteria are all around us, and some provide beneficial aspects to life, but others cause infections or worsen diseases.”

Smith was the lead researcher on a research team that is studying how bacteria work together to exacerbate disease and make treatment difficult. Specifically, they looked at two bacteria commonly seen together in infections – Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Staph is found on the skin in 50% of the population; Pseudomonas is found in soil. However, when they join together in an epidemic, things take a turn for the worse.

„Most infections are caused by a single bacterium, but when bacterial species 'cluster,’ treating them becomes even more challenging,” Smith said. „The infection is very serious, and they can be resistant to antibiotic treatment.”

According to Smith, these bacteria interact in the wound, making the infection more serious and challenging to treat. This is especially important in individuals with cystic fibrosis where these two bacteria thrive.

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„While trying to develop new ways to treat infections with these bacteria, we discovered that how fast each bacteria grows and how each bacteria talks to each other in the wound determines how fast each bacteria grows,” Smith said. „If we can interfere with their ability to talk to each other, we can come up with ways to alter their growth or the amount of energy they have, which can reduce the severity of infection and make them more susceptible to antibiotics.”

Smith says there is much more research to be done, but each discovery is a step toward improving the overall human condition.

More information:
Camryn Bajon et al., Interactions between metabolism and growth may determine the coexistence of Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, eLife (2023) DOI: 10.7554/eLife.83664

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