Researchers at U of MN could be on path to subduing microbial resistance

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have demonstrated a means of disrupting communication between pathogens that could pave the way to eliminating microbial resistance.

Mikael Elias, an associate professor of biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics, says bacteria communicate through the secretion of chemicals.  His lab has successfully used proteins to interfere with those transmissions.

“We have a blurrying device, if you will, that inhibits all of the behaviors that are regulated by this communication system, including the ability to infect plants and possibly animals and humans.”

Elias tells Brownfield that could have very broad implications.

“The typical selection for resistance is because you use a chemical that kills bacteria. So in fact you will select for any bacteria having a mutation that can protect them from the molecule you’re trying to use to kill them.”

Because the enzyme developed in the lab is not harmful to pathogens, Elias does not expect new resistance to develop.  He’s also confident the technology will be effective on resistance that’s already present.

The researchers are currently performing experiments to inform them on crop protection in the form of seed treatments, in season, or post-harvest applications.

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