Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Cornell University researchers have synthesized a molecule impeding the growth of two harmful bacteria: M. tuberculosis, estimated to infect one-third of the world’s population, and Y. pestis, the cause of pneumonic and bubonic plague. This is the first agent that effectively targets these pathogens by blocking their ability to synthesize siderophores, compounds required for those bacteria to grow and cause disease.
“This strategy may eventually lead to the development of new antibiotics to treat tuberculosis and plague,” said Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center chemist Derek Tan, who co-led the project with Cornell microbiologist Luis Quadri. “In particular, this type of inhibitor may provide a valuable new line of defense against multidrug-resistant infections.”
In the study, published in the June issue of Nature Chemical Biology, the investigators designed a compound, salicyl-AMS, that mimics a key component in siderophore synthesis. The compound blocks this process, inhibiting the bacteria’s ability to extract iron from their hosts. Iron is an essential nutrient for bacterial growth and virulence.
Dr. Tan added that this strategy should be useful for treating other pathogenic bacteria responsible for hospital-borne infections, and that similar approaches to inhibitor design can be applied in the future to anti-cancer targets.