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Drug improves antibiotic treatment of lung infection

Patients with lung conditions are prone to infections that can be hard to treat with antibiotics. Now researchers have found a drug that breaks down the bacteria’s protective biofilm so antibiotics can get in.

A new study jointly led by Dr Raymond Allan from the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility and NIHR Biomedical Research Centre has found a way to improve the effectiveness of an antibiotic used to treat lung infections in patients with chronic lung conditions.

Their results, published in the journal Microbiology, show a compound called D-methionine can break down the protective slime known as a biofilm that surrounds Haemophilus influenza bacteria.

This allowed the antibiotic azithromycin to reach and kill the bacteria, to better treat the infection and reduce the risk of antibiotic-resistant superbugs emerging from overuse of antibiotics.

These results, from tests on the bacteria in the lab, hold the promise of better treatment of lung infections for those with chronic lung conditions.

Fighting lung infection

The bacteria non-typeable Haemophilus influenza is a major cause of lung infections in patients with chronic lung diseases like cystic fibrosis, primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

These infections greatly worsen the impacts of these conditions and are usually treated with a course of antibiotics. However, the bacteria’s protective biofilm shields them from the antibiotic, making it less effective, which can lead to persistent, recurring and hard to treat infections.

D-methionine works by interfering with the biofilm production process, preventing new biofilm from forming. This removes the barrier to the antibiotic, making it a more effective treatment.

Better antibiotic treatment for all

As well as potentially improving the speed and results of antibiotic treatment for these patients, the approach could help tackle the rise of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.

These bacteria, often named ‘superbugs’, cannot be killed with commonly used antibiotics, are a growing threat to health worldwide. This antibiotic resistance threatens to turn the clock back to a time when infections associated with surgery, disease or births were untreatable and deadly.

Reducing antibiotic use is one of the main ways to prevent antibiotic resistance. By allowing lower doses to be used, D-methionine has the potential to help fight antibiotic resistance.


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