Potential therapy based on the natural immune defences could be key to helping beat superbugs, according to a new study.
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh found the LL-37 molecule produced by the human body changes the way cells behave when invaded by bacteria.
Focusing on lung diseases, seen as increasingly resistant to antibiotics, the team found LL-37 specifically targets infected cells to reveal what is wrong and produce a signal in specialised cells known as neutrophils.
At the same time the molecule causes the infected cells to self-destruct, removing the threat before the bacteria can spread to other healthy cells.
It is hoped the findings could lead to new approaches to other multi-drug resistant infections.
Dr Donald J Davidson from the MRC Centre for Inflammation Research said: “Our search for alternative and complementary treatments for antibiotic-resistant infections is becoming ever more urgent.
“Trying to boost the best of the human body’s effective natural defences, like this, may prove to be an important part of our future solutions.”
The study, published in the journal PLoS Pathogens, was funded by the Medical Research Council.