(May 12, 2011 - Insidermedicine)
A touch of sugar can boost metabolic activity in dormant bacteria, making them more vulnerable to standard antibiotic therapy, according to research published in Nature.
Here are some recommendations for the use of antibiotics in adults, from the Singapore Ministry of Health:
• Antibiotics should be used only for treatment of patients with confirmed or suspected bacterial infections.
• Antibiotics may be used for prophylaxis where consequences of infection would be severe
• Patients or their caregivers should be clearly instructed on the dose and the necessity of finishing a course of treatment
Researchers out of Boston University investigated methods of eradicating ‘persisters’ – subpopulations of metabolically dormant bacteria that tolerate repeated antibiotic treatment and that are implicated in chronic and recurrent infections. Despite the clinical relevance of persisters, no effective treatments are available to date.
The investigators discovered that sugar can be used to rouse persisters from their dormant metabolic state, thus making them susceptible to conventional antibiotic therapy. In a mouse model of a urinary tract infection, the researchers successfully eradicated 99.9% of E. coli persisters within two hours simply by adding sugar to antibiotic therapy. Without the sugar, the same antibiotic therapy failed to affect the persisters.
Today’s research offers a simple and inexpensive means of boosting the efficacy of antibiotics, which may limit the need to develop new drugs.