London: In a major breakthrough, researchers have discovered how bacteria destroy antibiotics - a finding that will help develop drugs which can effectively tackle infections in the future.
Using a technique called quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics simulations (QM/MM), the researchers were able to gain a molecular-level insight into how enzymes called abeta-lactamases' react to antibiotics.
The QM/MM simulations revealed that the most important step in the whole process is when the enzyme 'spits out' the broken down antibiotic.
For the study, the researchers focused on the growing resistance to carbapenems, which are known as the 'last resort' antibiotics for many bacterial infections and super bugs such as E. coli.
"We have shown that we can use computer simulations to identify which enzymes breaks down and spits out carbapenems quickly and those that do it slowly," said professor Adrian Mulholland from the University of Bristol in Britain.
If this happens quickly, then the enzyme is able to go on chewing up antibiotics and the bacterium is resistant.
If it happens slowly, then the enzyme gets clogged up and cannot break down any more antibiotics, so the bacterium is more likely to die.
"This means that these simulations can be used in future to test enzymes and predict and understand resistance," Mulholland added.
"We hope that this will identify how they act against different drugs - a useful tool in developing new antibiotics and helping to choose which drugs might be best for treating a particular outbreak," he concluded.
The findings appeared in the journal Chemical Communications.