Rainforest plant combats multi-resistant bacterial strains

Jes Gitz Holler
EurekAlert

Aggressive infections in hospitals are an increasing health problem worldwide. The development of bacterial resistance is alarming. Now a young Danish scientist has found a natural substance in a Chilean rainforest plant that effectively supports the effect of traditional treatment with antibiotics.

PhD Jes Gitz Holler from the University of Copenhagen discovered in a research project a compound that targets a particular resistance mechanism in yellow staphylococci. The development of resistance in these specific bacteria is extremely rapid. Bacterial strains that do not respond to treatment have already been found in the USA and Greece.

“I have discovered a natural substance in a Chilean avocado plant that is active in combination treatment with traditional antibiotics. Resistant bacteria have an efflux pump in their bacterial membrane that efficiently pumps out antibiotics as soon as they have gained access. I have identified a natural substance that inhibits the pumping action, so that the bacteria’s defence mechanisms are broken down and the antibiotic treatment allowed to work,” explains Jes Gitz Holler.

Jes Gitz Holler gathered specimens of the plant, which comes from the Persea family, in Chile, where the Mapuche people use the leaves of the avocado plant to heal wounds. The results have been published in Journal of Microbial Chemotherapy.

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