Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
September 28, 1998
"Trojan Horse" may be new weapon in fight against bacteria
We've all heard the arms-race analogy used in discussing the tit-for-tat confrontation between disease-causing bacteria and the drugs developed to combat them. But a technique for smuggling antibiotics past bacterial walls now under study by University of Guelph microbiologists evokes a much earlier conflict.
A molecular-level "Trojan horse" is how Professor Terry Beveridge describes the bacterial structures he hopes will one day replace conventional antibiotics. Antibiotics typically have a "shelf life" because bacteria develop resistance over time. This would not be a concern with the system Beveridge and graduate student Kelly MacDonald are researching.
The system takes advantage of a mechanism developed by bacteria to attack and consume neighbouring bugs. Preliminary tests by the Guelph researchers found that enlisting benign bacteria as couriers to deliver antibiotics proved effective against one type of pathogenic organism that can elude normal drug treatment and the body's own infection-fighting defences. Now they are investigating the system against other bacteria, including species that can afflict people with weakened immune systems or that can severely infect a developing fetus.
They hope it will one day prove a simpler, cheaper but more effective alternative to the spiral of over-designed drugs and heightened bacterial resistance that has gone on since humans joined the three-billion-year-old bacterial arms race less than a century ago.
CONTACT: Professor Terry Beveridge, Department of Microbiology, (519) 824-4120 Ext. 3366
For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, University of Guelph, (519) 824-4120 Ext. 3338 September 28, 1998