"[This] novel formulation, consisting of small capsules made of natural ingredients, could offer a new means to deter a [globally spread] 'superbug' pathogen," said Francisco Goycoolea, a professor of food science and nutrition at the University of Leeds and one of the study authors.
Antibiotic resistance poses one of the greatest threats to human health today. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that by 2050, 10 million deaths and an economic loss of $100 trillion may occur annually if effective interventions against antimicrobial resistance are not developed.
Antibiotic resistance happens when germs (e.g., bacteria and fungi) develop the ability to withstand the drugs designed to kill them. For instance, antibiotics may no longer be effective against certain bacterial infections. Though it can occur naturally, the inappropriate use of antibiotics has made many disease-causing microorganisms resistant to drugs.
One of these superbugs is H. pylori, which has grown more resistant to antibiotics in recent years. In 2017, the WHO classified antibiotic-resistant H. pylori strains as a high-priority pathogen on their list of drug-resistant bacteria that pose the biggest threat to global health.
Goycoolea said that H. pylori is a globally spread pathogen, with up to 70 percent of people worldwide hosting the bacteria. Unfortunately, not everyone may be aware that they are infected with it as it does not always cause symptoms. But when infection progresses, it can result in ulcers and inflammation of the stomach lining. It can also increase the risk of stomach cancer. Therefore, treating H. pylori infection is key to preventing these health problems.
"The bacteria hide under the gastric mucous layer where antibiotics do not penetrate effectively. This often leads to recurrent infections and gives rise to resistant strains," said Goycoolea. Treating H. pylori infection is challenging, and doctors often prescribe a cocktail of antibiotics. This approach, however, only promotes the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria.
A team of researchers recently developed antibiotic-free nanocapsules using only natural ingredients. They stabilized the colloidal particles using lysozyme, a naturally occurring antimicrobial enzyme, and coated them with dextran sulfate, which is particularly effective at suppressing H. pylori growth. They loaded the core of the nanocapsules with curcumin, whose anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activities are well-documented.
The researchers then tested the nanocapsules' effect on bacterial adhesion, or the bacteria's ability to attach to cells. They found that the capsules inhibited bacterial adhesion to stomach cells in a dose-dependent manner. As bacterial adhesion is integral to the colonization of a new host, the researchers said that their capsules can help prevent the onset and recurrence of infection. (Related: The science behind curcumin’s healing properties.)
Based on their findings, co-author Andreas Hensel of the University of Munster in Germany said that antibiotics developers should base future antibacterial products on more specific molecular targets of the bacteria. That way, instead of showing broad activity like older compounds, they can precisely target specific virulence factors of specific bacteria.
The researchers have already filed a patent based on their formulation and hope that their nanocapsules will find widespread acceptance for treating H. pylori and other antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Learn more about natural treatments for antibiotic-resistant bacteria at NaturalAntibiotics.news.