Antibiotic resistance, otherwise known as AMR, makes it possible for bacterial infections such as E-coli to cause fatal sepsis. Researchers have used neutrons to explore the complex outer surfaces of E-coli bacteria to understand how it interacts with its surroundings.
According to the World Health Organization, sepsis kills 6 million people every year. Giovanna Fragneto’s research investigates how the surface of bacteria is key to understanding its weakness, as understanding the antibiotic resistance of bacterial infections is vital, and may even provide new possibilities for the development of antimicrobial agents.
How is the study investigating the cause of sepsis?
According to Giovanna Fragneto, the co-author of the study and Head of the ILL Soft Matter Science and Support group: “This study relied on the unique set of tools offered by neutron science to increase our understanding across a range of life sciences. Neutrons are showing us how we can investigate bacteria in the future.”
Specifically, the study used the process of neutron reflectometry. It focused on lipopolysaccharides (LPS), the carbohydrates which are found on the surface of E.coli and are responsible for many types of infection. LPS carbohydrates play a significant role in how antibiotic resistance and bacteria affect the human immune system.
Solving the problem of antibiotic resistance
Emanuel Schneck, another co-author, from the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces Biomaterials Department, added: “The experiments have helped improve our understanding of the structure of bacterial outer surfaces. Neutrons have given us more detail on the way bacteria act in their real environment, especially within colonies. It’s a very exciting project, with great potential for drug design in the long term.”
The researchers believe that they will now be able to make some more realistic predictions of how bacteria will interact with drugs in a certain environment, which could help to solve the problem antibiotic resistance in the future by developing new antimicrobial treatments.