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Breaking up the superbugs’ party

A multi-disciplinary research team at the University of Nottingham’s Centre for Biomolecular Sciences has uncovered a new way of inhibiting the toxicity and virulence of the superbug Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

The new discovery concerns the bacterial cells’ ability to ‘talk’ to each other by producing and sensing small chemical signal molecules. This is called ‘quorum sensing’ (QS) and enables a population of individual bacteria to act socially rather than as individuals. QS allows a population of bacteria to assess their numerical strength and make a decision only when the population is ‘quorate’. Interfering with the QS signalling process blocks bacterial virulence and renders bacteria unable to cause infection.

Professor of Macromolecular Crystallography, Jonas Emsley, said: “This ground-breaking work establishes a platform for the future evaluation and further development of new QS inhibitor compounds as potential drugs for the treatment of P. aeruginosa infections.” The study was published in the journal PLOS Pathogens.