Researchers at the Institute of Life Sciences of the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL- Catholic University of Louvain) have just registered a scientific breakthrough that paves the way for new antibacterial treatments. They have discovered that some bacteria in the intestinal flora can be used to fight others that are resistant to antibiotics, UCL said on Wednesday in a press release.
The bacteria in question, S. salivarius, eat other bacteria. They are special because, not only do they produce toxins in the intestine that kill nearby bacteria, but they also capture the latter’s genetic material, which makes them better able to prosper in the intestinal flora, researchers Johann Mignolet and Pascal Hols say.
“More or less 700 species of bacteria and fungi comprise the intestinal flora. Their numbers evolve over time and vary from one individual to the next, depending mainly on genetics or nutrition,” post-doctoral researcher Johann Mignolet explains. S. salivarius is all the more interesting in that “it is one of the first bacteria to arrive in the buccal and intestinal flora of the infant and remains with us throughout our lives,” he adds.
The bacteria can be used directly as a probiotic (a compound that has a beneficial effect on the organism that swallows it) for fighting harmful bacteria in the intestine or mouth. Another possible application is that the researchers can themselves develop the toxins produced by the bacteria and use them for therapeutic purposes, for example against the golden staphylococcus or listeria.
Other experts collaborating in the research, which was funded mainly by the Scientific Research Fund, FNRS, included Jacques Mahillon, also of the UCL, and Tom Coenye of the University of Ghent. The results were published in the scientific journal Cell Reports.