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Battle against superbugs: university researchers report breakthrough

superbug guys

The research team led by Prof Qian Pei-Yuan (second left) discovered for the first time that “D-stereospecific resistance peptidases” could render peptide antibiotics useless. Photo: HKUST

The “culprit” causing bacterial resistance to peptide antibiotics enabling spread of superbugs has been identified by researchers at the University of Science and Technology. Peptide antibiotics are seen as the last line of defence against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Identification of the “culprit” by Professor Qian Pei-yuan, head of the Life Sciences Division, and his team opens up a new direction for drug development to tackle superbugs. The university warns it also sounds an alarm against widespread improper use of antibiotics.

qian

The specimen held by Prof Qian is peptide antibiotics already broken down by DRPs (the dot without the ring around it). Photo: HKUST

Prof Qian’s researchers analysed more than 6000 bacteria genomes with gene editing and chemical and enzymatic analysis. They found the “culprit” is a family of DRPs (D-sterospecific resistance peptidases). It is a problem of considerable magnitude, the university warns. “…Humans increasing misuse of antibiotics (means) more and more peptide antibiotics would be rendered useless, leading to delay or even failure of treatment.”

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