Boosting immune response may pave way to combat superbug

Acinetobacter baumannii is one of the most significant hospital-acquired bacterial pathogens, able to cause life-threatening infections and develop resistance to all currently available antibiotic agents.

Professor Anton Peleg and colleagues have established zebrafish as a model to study real-time interactions between innate immune cells and A. baumannii during infection. They identified a bacterial metabolic pathway that, when inhibited, leads to enhanced immune responses toward the bacteria, improving bacterial clearance and reducing severity of disease.

The enhanced immune response was secondary to accumulation of a metabolic by-product, which acted as a direct, bacterial-mediated attractant of neutrophils, the key immune cell important in response to bacterial infections.

These results pave the way for novel therapeutic targeting of bacterial metabolism to stimulate immune responses to fight off infection.