Bacteria Growth Slowed Using Artificial Protein in Paint

Researchers in Japan have developed a method to slow growth in bacteria that causes pneumonia in hospitalized patients with low immunity and is resistant to antibiotics.

By inhibiting iron uptake in the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa, researchers were able to slow infection rates in susceptible hospital patients. The study appears in the February issue of Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

The bacteria causes diseases in humans, such as pneumonia, and increases antibiotic resistance. It is prevalent in many hospitals and also exists in aquatic areas.

Scientists created an artificial metalloprotein (a protein that contains a metal) designed to inhibit growth of P. aeruginosa after realizing that the blue paint used on trains could be used as a binding agent. The bacteria is similar to humans in that it requires heme iron, which is gleaned from secreting the absorber HasA protein, for survival.

“Upon looking closely at the crystal structure of the HasA protein binding heme, we considered the possibility of the HasA protein to bind to a metal complex that has a similar structure as heme,” said the leader of the study, Osami Shoji. “We found synthetic metal complexes that can mimic heme and bind to the HasA protein. To our delight, one of the resulting complexes successfully inhibited growth of P. aeruginosa bacteria.”

By stopping the secretion of the HasA protein, researchers established a mechanism to attempt to eliminate P. aeruginosa. This has not been previously done, as the bacteria’s antibiotic resistance keeps it from being wiped out.