UCL/VIB research shows that anti mycoticum fights Staphylococcus aureus

3 November 2016
​​Researchers at VIB, KU Leuven and the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) reveal an innovative strategy to fight against bacterial biofilms. Professor Françoise Van Bambeke’s teams from the Louvain Drug Research Institute of UCL and Professor Patrick Van Dijck’s teams from VIB and KU Leuven are opening up a new path in treating serious infections which affect patients in hospital. The results of the study are published in the scientific journal, Nature Communications.

In this study, scientists demonstrate how medication used today against fungal infections (caspofungin) make a form of antibiotics (fluoroquinolones) very effective against Staphylococcus aureus biofilms. Staphylococcus aureus is one of the biggest menaces in a hospital environment.  In fact, it causes ongoing infections, by forming biofilms on medical devices (catheters, prostheses) and tissue. Biofilms are bacteria communities which surround themselves with an adhesive and protective matrix, making them resistant to the action of antibiotics and immune defenses.  Biofilms are consequently very difficult to get rid of.  As they frequently release living bacteria, it is thought that they are responsible for the recurrent nature of Staphylococcus aureus infections.   

Scientists from UCL, VIB and KU Leuven have researched innovative treatments that are likely to destroy the biofilm matrix in order to restore antibiotic activity. They have been able to highlight such an effect for caspofungin, an antifungal medication, today used in clinical treatment against severe fungal infections, such as Candida or Aspergillus. Although totally inactive on Staphylococcus aureus cultured in a broth (a form known as “planktonic”), caspofungin considerably enhances the anti-biofilm activity of certain antibiotics, like fluoroquinolones. The synergy of action between the two medications has been able to be demonstrated, in vitro and in vivo, on the biofilms formed on catheters and implanted in mice.  

These encouraging results open up new paths in the fight against serious infections affecting patients in hospital, in particular, patients who carry catheters (to administer medication intravenously, for example) or implanted medical devices (prostheses, pacemakers, etc.).  These results have enabled a new therapeutic target and an initial effective medication to be identified, which could form the subject of a clinical evaluation. Future laboratory research based on this discovery will aim to identify molecules which recognize the bacterial enzyme better than fungi, in order to make further improvements to how targeted the action of the proposed treatment is.  

The work has been carried out thanks to the financial support of Innoviris (the Prospective Research for Brussels program), the Interuniversity Attraction Poles program initiated by the Belgian Science Policy Office and the Swiss National Science Foundation (FNRS). The results are published in the scientific journal, Nature Communications.


The antifungal caspofungin increases fluoroquinolone activity against Staphyloccocus aureus biofilms by inhibiting N-acetylglucosamine transferase, Nature Communications 2016
Doi: 10.1038/NCOMMS13286

Questions from patients
A breakthrough in research is not the same as a breakthrough in medicine. The realizations of VIB researchers can form the basis of new therapies, but the development path still takes years. This can raise a lot of questions. That is why we ask you to please refer questions in your report or article to the email address that VIB makes available for this purpose: patienteninfo*Replace*With*At*Sign*vib.be. Everyone can submit questions concerning this and other medically-oriented research directly to VIB via this address.

Patrick Van Dijck
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