Washington: A young Danish scientist has found a natural substance in a Chilean rainforest plant that effectively supports the effect of traditional treatment with antibiotics.
PhD Jes Gitz Holler from the University of Copenhagen has said that the natural compound has great potential as an effective drug to combat multi-resistant bacterial strains.
Holler discovered that the compound targets a particular resistance mechanism in yellow staphylococci.
Yellow staphylococcus – Staphylococcus aureus – is the most common cause of infection in wounds from an operation. However, the bacteria can be the cause of many diseases, from abscesses and food poisoning to life-threatening infections such as infective endocarditis and sepsis.
The development of resistance in these specific bacteria is extremely rapid. Bacterial strains that do not respond to treatment have already been found in the USA and Greece.
“I have discovered a natural substance in a Chilean avocado plant that is active in combination treatment with traditional antibiotics. Resistant bacteria have an efflux pump in their bacterial membrane that efficiently pumps out antibiotics as soon as they have gained access. The identified natural substance inhibits the pumping action, so that the bacteria’s defence mechanisms are broken down and the antibiotic treatment allowed to work,” explained Holler.
Holler gathered specimens of the plant, which comes from the Persea family, in Chile, where the Mapuche people use the leaves of the avocado plant to heal wounds.
The so-called MIC value is the lowest possible concentration of an antibiotic that inhibits the bacterial growth. With his compound from the medicine chest of the Mapuche people, Holler can lower the MIC value by at least eight times:
“The natural compound has great potential and perhaps in the longer term can be developed into an effective drug to combat resistant staphylococci. At this time there are no products on the market that target this same efflux-inhibitor mechanism. We want to improve the active substance using synthetic chemistry in the laboratory. That will also ensure sustainable production of a potential drug while protecting rainforest plants,” added Holler.
The results have been published in Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.