Danish discovery could pave the way for new types of antibiotics

Novo Nordisk Foundation Centre-led team identify 25 new bacterial transport proteins

A team of scientists from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Centre for Biosustainability at DTU and the biotech start-up Biosyntia have developed a molecular sensor system – a biosensor – which has led to the discovery of 25 new transport proteins in bacteria.

Transport proteins control how bacteria communicate and how they absorb medicine and vitamins.

The new discovery thus paves the way for new types of antibiotics and the sustainable biological production of vitamins.

Learning more about transport proteins is important in order to better understand how, for example, intestinal bacteria exchange nutrients and affect gut health.

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“With this knowledge, we may be able to develop drugs that can block transport proteins so that pathogenic bacteria such as helicobacter pylori will not be able to survive,” Hans Genee, the co-founder of Biosyntia, told DTU.

The problem with bacterial transport proteins is that the function of about 75 percent of them remains unknown.

“The discovery of the transport proteins is important for understanding how bacteria communicate with each other, for example, in the intestine, where some microbes excrete vitamins and essential amino acids, while others absorb them,” said Morten Sommer, a professor at DTU BioSustain and member of the research team.

“When we understand the interaction, we can begin to cure intestinal diseases and infectious diseases with new types of antibiotics.”