Sepsis study to power new antibiotic discoveries

Antibiotics to target all sepsis-causing bacteria.


Previously under-recognized, sepsis has only recently become part of the Global Burden of Disease register. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that sepsis caused approximately 50 million cases and 11 million fatalities in 2017, with developing nations bearing a disproportionately high disease burden (85%).

IMB researchers have led a national study on the four main bacteria that cause sepsis, providing new targets for developing antibiotics.

Professors Mark Walker and Mark Schembri, along with Dr. Andre Mu from the University of Melbourne and teams from 23 Australian research organizations, set up experiments to mimic what happens to bacteria when they enter the bloodstream during infection. Sepsis Study to power new antibiotic discoveries

Sepsis is responsible for 20% of all deaths worldwide, killing more people than heart attacks, strokes, or cancers of the prostate, breast, or colon.

It is distinguished by infection-related organ failure, which leaves survivors with physical, cognitive, and psychological side effects that can last their lives.

Professor Walker said the research team set out to find responses common to all four types of bacteria that cause sepsis and discover more about how bacteria survive in the body.

Professor Walker said, “Currently when someone goes to the hospital with sepsis, they are immediately treated with antibiotics, which may have to be adjusted once the type of bacteria has been identified.”

“This study allowed us to identify potential new targets for antibiotics that target all sepsis-causing bacteria.”

Professor Walker said most sepsis studies focus on just one bacterial species.

He said, “Our team studied multiple bacterial species and used several advanced technologies.” “We have been able to characterize bacterial genes, RNA, proteins, and metabolites from E. coli, Group A Streptococcus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Staphylococcus aureus and integrated the data to get a complete picture of how different species respond when grown in human blood serum.”

The study brought together the Australian bacterial-pathogen research and biological sciences communities. It generated a wealth of data, which is now publicly available.

“Researchers around the world will be able to mine this dataset to drive antibiotic discovery and development, which is critical given the rapid increase in antibiotic resistance seen globally.”

The Antibiotic Resistant Sepsis Pathogens Framework Initiative consortium is supported by funding from Bioplatforms Australia, enabled by the Australian Government National Collaborative research infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).

Journal Reference:

  1. Mu, Hachani, Neha, Walker, etal. Integrative omics identify conserved and pathogen-specific responses of sepsis-causing bacteria. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-37200-w


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