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Dutch researchers report on novel antimicrobial peptide to combat drug-resistant bacteria and biofilms


Researchers from the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), Academic Medical Center (AMC) and the Association of Dutch Burn Centers have published on the use of antimicrobial peptide SAAP-148 to combat drug-resistant bacteria and biofilms in the latest edition of the scientific journal Science Translational Medicine.


As part of a European research consortium ”Biofilm alliance” (BALI), they have tweaked a naturally occurring peptide found in the human body, called LL-37. By doing so, the researchers have designed a drug that could wipe out obstinate microbes resistant to available antibiotics.

In an editorial comment on the website of the scientific journal Science, Dr Kim Lewis, a microbiologist at the Northeastern University in Boston who was not involved in the work says that the candidate adds “an important piece … to the puzzle of creating a perfect antibiotic”.

LL-37 plays multiple roles in the body’s immune response, like killing bacteria. The researchers have shortened and improved the peptide to make a more powerful variant. One variation, dubbed SAAP-148, proved a powerful weapon, the team reports in Science Translational Medicine. SAAP-148 kills bacteria by damaging the bacterial plasma membrane and it was shown that it can eradicate drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Acinetobacter baumannii biofilms. Also, it managed to knock out persister cells in a bacterial biofilm that had already been treated with the antibiotic rifampicin, often used to fight persistent infections at the site of prostheses.

“This is the first published demonstration of the killing of such persisters”, notes Prof Bob Hancock, a microbiologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, in the  editorial comment on the website of Science.

In partnership with the researchers, Madam Therapeutics is pursuing SAAP-148 to treat amongst others, skin wound infections, bladder infections, or infections at the site of prostheses. To administer the drug systemically, the team is also working on the design of an injectable formulation that protects the peptide from breaking down in the body, makes it more selective, and directs it to the site of infection inside the body.

Madam Therapeutics expects to test SAAP-148 in clinical trials soon—first to disinfect lesions from the inflammatory skin disease atopic dermatitis, then to treat patients suffering from diabetic foot ulcers as well as burn patients.

For more information about this publication and further research, please visit the website of Madam Therapeutics.

Source: Madam Therapeutics