Antibiotic-resistant bacteria: New active ingredient in sight


A newly discovered antibody could be used to treat several bacteria simultaneously – including hospital germs that are resistant to many antibiotics. These findings were published in the Journal “Nature Immunology".

Until now, it has always been the case that an antibody of the immune system is restricted to a very specific target. However, the immune system also appears to produce antibodies that recognise and neutralise several different microorganisms – if they have common characteristics.

This was discovered by researchers from the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ), in cooperation with Austrian scientists from the biotech company Arsanis Bioscience in Vienna. The monoclonal antibodies recognize a certain structure on the surface of various germs, the so-called lipopolysaccharides (LPS) in the outer membrane of the bacteria.

Antibodies protect the organism from various pathogens

As the researchers report in their article in the journal “Nature Immunology”, they have isolated antibodies from the blood and intestines of healthy individuals. These antibodies protect the organism from various subgroups of Klebsiella pneumoniae – as well as from other bacteria and even certain yeasts and viruses.

Such universal antibodies have so far gone undetected. They recognise certain LPS structures of the bacteria, in this study, those from the sugar mannose, to which the antibodies can attach themselves specifically. What is significant here is that in the future, a limited number of antibodies may be sufficient to control a wide variety of microorganisms.

Alternative to antibiotics

This could help doctors to prevent dangerous blood poisoning arising from bacteria, for example. Antibodies are also very popular as alternatives to antibiotics. In view of increasing antibiotic resistance, new types of active substances are urgently needed. In high-risk groups, for example, patients with weakened immune systems, such antibodies could also be used prophylactically.

More than a third of the global population carries Klebsiella pneumoniae. These rod-shaped bacteria are harmless in healthy people, but not in immunocompromised people. Klebsiella pneumoniae is a common cause of hospital infections and is increasingly resistant to antibiotics.


  1. Cross-specificity of protective human antibodies against Klebsiella pneumoniae LPS O-antigen, Rollenske T et al., Nature Immunology

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