Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is bad enough, but what if drug resistance also gives bacteria the ability to fend off attacks by the immune system? In a study in mBio this week scientists identify a lose-lose situation with colistin and Acinetobacter baumannii: bacteria resistant to colistin are also commonly resistant to antimicrobial substances made by the human body. Cross-resistance to colistin and host antimicrobials LL-37 and lysozyme, which help defend the body against bacterial attack, could mean that patients with life-threatening multi-drug resistant infections are also saddled with a crippled immune response.
Colistin is a last-line drug for treating several kinds of drug-resistant infections, but colistin resistance and the drug's newfound impacts on bacterial resistance to immune attack underscore the need for newer, better antibiotics, says corresponding author David Weiss of Emory University.
Weiss says the results show that colistin therapy can fail patients in two ways. "The way that the bacteria become resistant [to colistin] allows them to also become resistant to the antimicrobials made by our immune system. That is definitely not what doctors want to do when they're treating patients with this last line antibiotic," says Weiss.
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