Altered antimicrobial peptides (AMP) from the South American wasp Polybia paulista have demonstrated the potential to be an effective novel antibacterial agent.
In the new study, published in Communications Biology, one version of the altered peptide was able to eliminate pathogenic Gram-negative bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa in mouse models.
After systematically analysing the structure and function of the wasp-derived AMPs, the researchers leveraged a physicochemical-guided peptide design strategy to identify specific functional hotspots in the toxic AMPs and repurpose them into a non-toxic viable antimicrobial agent.
Several of the modified wasp peptides were able to reduce P. aeruginosa infection in mice and one peptide in particular was able to eliminate infection completely, provided it was given at a high dose.
“After four days, that compound can completely clear the infection, and that was quite surprising and exciting because we don’t typically see that with other experimental antimicrobials or other antibiotics that we’ve tested in the past with this particular mouse model,” said study author Cesar de la Fuente-Nunez.
The researchers are now creating additional variants aimed at eliminating infections at lower doses.
They also envision that the principles and approaches exploited in their study could be used in other naturally occurring AMPs.