P lab

Antimicrobial Enzymes

We have a growing interest in the use of enzymes to fight bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis. Bacteria have been identified that are resistant to all known antibiotics, and infectious diseases remain a leading cause of death and acute hospitalizations. The rate of antibiotic discovery has not kept pace with the increasing prevalence of drug resistance. As a consequence, new strategies are urgently needed.

As an alternative to traditional antibiotics, we are investigating the use of enzymes that interfere with bacterial virulence – turning a pathogen into a non-pathogen. One advantage of this approach is that there is no immediate life or death selection on the target bacterium; consequently, there is less evolutionary pressure to develop resistance. We are using directed evolution to engineer enzymes that can disrupt quorum sensing. Quorum sensing is a way for bacteria to communicate via chemical signals. Many clinically relevant pathogens use this process to regulate virulence. These bacteria use quorum sensing to assess their local population densities; once they have reached a 'critical mass', they activate their arsenal of virulence genes, establish infection, and/or begin forming biofilms.