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Indians find a new bacterial target for drug development (Relevant for GS Prelims and GS Mains Paper III)

In an innovative approach, the researchers focused on the biofilms that normally shield the bacteria from antibiotics

Indian researchers have found a new target that can potentially be used for developing new antibiotics that will be effective against many bacteria. The new target is made of two proteins, which form a complex that is responsible for the formation of biofilm, that perform very important functions and are critical for bacterial ability to successfully infect humans.

What is a Biofilm?
Biofilm is the organic coating on surfaces generally associated with industrial, municipal and drinking water processes. Biofilm inside distribution pipes in the pharmaceutical, automotive and food industries for instance is a huge concern and problem.

Biofilm in this context
Bacteria form biofilms, a kind of matrix, during infection in plants and animals. The biofilm shields the bacteria from antibiotics and helps bacteria survive harsh conditions such as extreme temperature or stress.

What has happened now?
Now a study by Indian researchers has found the molecular signalling events that play a crucial role in biofilm formation in Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax.

Till now, all attention has been on developing antibiotics that target disease-causing bacteria and not the biofilm itself.

How bacteria decide to form Biofilms ?
This is one of the basic questions that scientists have been trying to answer .One  hypothesis is that PrkC senses some signal and transmits it from outside to inside the cell. This signal goes to other proteins like GroEL.

The mystery to biofilm formation lies with one protein called GroEL. The addition of phosphate to this tiny machine initiates a course of events within bacterial cells leading to complex biofilm formation.

Both PrkC and GroEL perform very important functions and are critical for bacterial ability to successfully infect humans.

Significance of GroEL-PrkC complex
Scientists think GroEL-PrkC complex could be a target for developing new antibiotic that will be effective against many bacterial pathogens such as the ones that cause MRSA, TB and pneumonia.

One strategy to tackle drug resistant bacteria will be to develop multi-drug regimen that combines traditional antibiotics with candidate drugs that can block bacterial signalling and prevent biofilm formation.



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