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It's for What's Bugging You

Insect antimicrobials may help us develop new antibiotics

FRIDAY, Aug. 16, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Here's something to consider the next time you're tempted to squash an insect: That bug may someday help save your life from another type of bug.

New information about how insects deal with bacteria may help humans develop ways to fight emerging strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, say scientists at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia.

In the effort to find ways to counter these antibiotic-resistant bacteria, some scientists are studying antimicrobial peptides derived from insects. Studies have identified the protein target in bacteria that is affected by these antimicrobial peptides.

While these peptides can kill bacteria, they're not toxic to mammalian cells, including human cells. That means it may be possible to use these insect-derived antimicrobial peptides to develop new antibiotics for people.

In their study, the Wistar scientists identified the segments of the peptide responsible for killing bacteria and the segments that allow the peptide to enter the cells of both bacteria and mammals. The results were recently published online in the European Journal of Biochemistry.

The finding that different segments of the peptides are responsible for killing bacteria and for enabling the peptide to enter cells means the peptides may offer more than new kinds of antibiotics.

The Wistar researchers say it may be possible to alter the peptides and use them to deliver drugs into human cells.

"This study lays the groundwork for the design of a novel family of antimicrobials," says senior study author Laszlo Otvos Jr., an associate professor at the Wistar Institute.

More information

Here's more on bacteria and insects, and how they figure in research on antibiotics.

SOURCE: Wistar Institute, news release, August 2002
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