Text written by Nóra Lehotai.
This year, the motto of the World Health Organization (WHO) for the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, celebrated each year between 18-24 November, is “Spread Awareness, Stop Resistance”.
Antimicrobials do wonders. We have antiviral, antibiotic and antifungal drugs and vaccines available. They protect against or cure infections which otherwise might prove to be deadly for humans, animals and plants. Penicillins and tetracyclines, some of the most commonly used antibiotics, save millions of lives every year. The discovery of antimicrobials revolutionized not only medicine but our food supply as well. However, with their use, especially misuse, we awoke the defense machinery of these microbes and they learned how to adapt to these agents. Another important problem is that we only have antiviral drugs against a few of all viruses that cause diseases in humans. We lack antiviral drugs against many hundreds of viruses that cause diseases in humans.
Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other type of microbes develop the ability to adapt to antimicrobial drugs, which have been successful to kill these microbes before but not anymore. Antimicrobial resistance emerges from all fields of antimicrobial applications. Whether these drugs are applied to treat infections in humans, animals or plants, or as a precaution to stop infections happening, in farming, for example, they contribute to the global problem of rising antimicrobial resistance. The spillover and transmission of resistant genes among bacteria, crossing the species border, cause bacteria to become resistant against our antibiotics while viruses gain resistance against antivirals via mutating when being copied. The consequence is that our drugs stop working and we have nothing left to fight against microbial infections, threatening our lives and food safety.
The following video by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation presents several researchers from Umeå University, among others, who are trying to neutralize bacteria in various ways and find new approaches: Felipe Cava (MIMS Senior PI, Associate Professor at Dept. of Molecular Biology) is studying the cell walls of bacteria. Maria Fällman (MIMS Deputy Director, Professor at Dept. of Molecular Biology) is studying bacterial defense mechanisms. Fredrik Almqvist (MIMS Senior PI, Professor at Dept. of Chemistry), Jörgen Johansson (MIMS Alumnus, Professor at Dept. of Molecular Biology) and Elisabet Sauer-Eriksson (Professor at Dept. of Chemistry) want to create new molecules to act as homing missiles.
Fredrik Almqvist and his collaborative partners at Karolinska University Hospital and University of Bonn recently identified a new group of molecules that overcome antibiotic resistance in many otherwise unreachable bacteria.
“The advantage of small molecules like these is that they are more easy to change chemically. We hope to be able to change THCZ so that the antibacterial effect increases and any negative effects on human cells decrease,” says Fredrik Almqvist.
See the original news article about this work here: https://www.umu.se/en/news/-new-group-of-antibacterial-molecules-identified_11112855/
About the scientific publication:
Elisabeth Reithuber, Torbjörn Wixe, Kevin C. Ludwig, Anna Müller, Hanna Uvell, Fabian Grein, Anders E.G. Lindgrenb, Sandra Muschiol, Priyanka Nannapaneni, Anna Eriksson, Tanja Schneider, Staffan Normark, Birgitta Henriques-Normark, Fredrik Almqvist, Peter Mellroth: THCz – Small molecules with antimicrobial activity that block cell wall lipid intermediates. PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), online Nov. 8, 2021, doi: 10.1073/pnas.2108244118.
Throughout the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, The Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS), the Swedish node of the Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine, hosted at Umeå University, will present interviews with some of its researchers, including Magnus Ölander, Irfan Ahmad, Niklas Arnberg, Karsten Meier and Nabil Karah, who carry out research at the field of virology, antibiotic resistance and discovery, and infectious diseases, and we hope that you join us on this journey to “Spread Awareness, Stop Resistance”.
World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021 illustration "Go Blue" by WHO.
To read more about antimicrobial awareness and resistance, visit:
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/antimicrobial-resistance
Project coordinator and responsible for communications
The Laboratory of Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden, MIMS