Antibiotics resistanceraises bighealth risks: Nobel laureate Prof Ada Yonath

Anil Urs Bengaluru | Updated on January 04, 2020 Published on January 04, 2020

She says diseases caused by parasites may cause 3.8% loss in global economy by 2050

Resistance to antibiotics is one of the most difficult problems in modern medicine, said Nobel laureate Prof Ada Yonath while delivering public lecture on “Next Generation Novel Eco-friendly Antibiotics- Blue Dream” at the 107th Indian Science Congress.

Prof Yonath, was awarded Nobel prize in 2009 for elucidating atomic structure and function of ribosomes, currently teaches structural biology at Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel.

“Bacteria profit from accidental mutation or develop specific molecular pathways that result resistance. The increasing appearance of multi drug resistance strains together with minimal number of new antibiotic drugs are becoming a colossal health treat,” she explained.

She mentioned that due to this Europe reports 33,000 deaths and 23, 000 deaths per year in the US. “All this may lead us to a pre-antibiotic era, during which diseases caused by parasites or simple infections resulted in deaths. This may result in a 3.8 per cent loss in global economy by 2050,” said Prof Yonath.

Prof Yonath has more recently worked on pathogen specific essential structural motifs on the ribosomes periphery. They have determined the structures of ribosomes from pathogenic bacteria and compared them to ribosomes from harmless bacteria, and identified unique target sites for developing new antibiotics. Thus they identified 25 new potential unique sites blocking 16 of them resulted in protein synthesis. She is also developing environmentally friendly degradable antibiotics. She mentioned the importance of the microbiome, and she developing antibiotics that will not effect the microbiome.

The lecture hall packed with research scholars and students, Prof Yonath elucidated the structure of ribosomes in bacteria using x-ray crystallography. She explained the role of ribosomes in protein synthesis. All ribosomes perform two major functions, decoding and peptide bond formation.

In vivo ribosomes can work continuously and can make 40 peptide bonds per second, hardly making any mistakes. She compared the protein synthesis by a ribosome to a factory, with the small subunit (top floor) does decoding and large subunit (lower floor) does the peptide bond formation between nascent amino acids. The tRNA acts like trucks, that bring in the amino acids into the ribosomal factory. The ribosomal action in protein synthesis was shown as a video, which is available in You tube.

Summerising her talk she said new insights obtained from high resolution structures of the ribosome from a genuine pathogen provide unique chemical tools for suggesting novel sites for future antibiotics. She suggested ways to improve the performance of known antibiotics and better distinction between pathogen and useful bacterial species. “This can lead design of pathogen specific antibiotics, instead of the broad range antibiotics presently in use.”

Finally, she concluded her talk by saying that their structure based species specific antibiotic design aims at minimizing wide spread resistance, microbiome destruction and environmental hazards. She also mentioned her ‘Blue dream’ Blue indicates increased life expectancy up to 80 plus years, as seen in the US and Canada. It is her dream to see that the entire world attains this life expectancy range.

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Published on January 04, 2020
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