A group of Australian scientists from Monash University and Harvard University have made antibiotics more effective against superbugs, organisms that are resistant to their effects. This discovery will help combat antimicrobial resistance. The results of the study appeared in the journal Nature Communications.

During a bacterial infection, the body uses chemoattractants – molecules that attract neutrophils. Neutrophils are immune cells that are critical to the immune response. They can kill dangerous bacteria.

The scientists used Staphylococcus aureus, which is known to be resistant to drugs. They attached a chemoattractant to the popular antibiotic vancomycin. Their interaction increased the number of immune cells. “We have been working on using ‘hybrids’ of a dual-acting antibiotic and chemoattractant that improve neutrophil recruitment and increase the chances of killing the bacteria,” said Dr. Jennifer Payne, lead researcher at the Monash Institute for Discovery of Biomedicine.

Scientists have applied the basics of microfluidics. They engineered the infection on a chip to track the emergence of human immune cells. Scientists observed in real time how the interaction of vancomycin and chemoattractant eliminates Staphylococcus aureus.

Researchers are looking for partners to continue clinical trials to develop an antibiotic strategy in intensive care settings to protect the most vulnerable patients.