Home Medical UBC researcher has a new weapon against difficult-to-treat bacterial infections

UBC researcher has a new weapon against difficult-to-treat bacterial infections


Our fight against abscesses – difficult-to-treat bacterial infections – may soon become easy as a University of British Columbia has found a new weapon against these infections.

Abscesses are formed by drug-resistant bacteria and these painful pus-filled lesions are one of the primary reasons behind millions of emergency-room visits every year. Because these lesions are formed by drug-resistant bacteria, antibiotics seldom work and the only option left to treat them is by cutting out the infected tissue or draining it.

Bob Hancock, a professor in UBC’s department of microbiology, and senior author of the study published in EBioMedicine, and his colleagues discovered that bacteria in abscesses are in a stress-triggered growth state. Using a synthetic peptide known as DJK-5, they were able to interfere with the bacteria’s stress response and heal abscesses in mice. Hancock said he hopes to begin clinical trials on human infections within a year.

The peptide was effective against two classes of bacteria, known as Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, whose different cell-wall structures make them susceptible to different antibiotics.

One interesting thing about the latest study at UBC is that researchers have proved that superbugs are susceptible to this peptide when under stress and that in presence of antibiotics this peptide works better. This effectively means that if the peptide is combined with antibiotics, there is a much lower chance of resistance as there are two agents that act in different ways and hence successful treatment is possible.

Previous research by Hancock showed how a peptide could be used to prevent bacteria forming biofilms on surfaces of the body. This latest research demonstrated their ability to work on a completely different type of infection as well.