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Antibiotic Apocalypse – An Alarming Problem

The inception of Antibiotic Apocalypse

The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.

~Sir Alexander Fleming, 1945


Source: [DSGĐ] Alexander Fleming và Dịch chiết thần kì từ nấm (

Above is the statement from Sir Alexander Fleming’s Nobel lecture in 1945. The discovery of antibiotics is one of the great advances in medical science but their overuse in years has made them less effective. Time and again we have been warned against the overuse of antibiotics. Since the 19th century, drug resistance in bacteria is one of the important concerns, especially among the people of the scientific community. Over time major attention was gained by the extensively drug-resistant (XDR), pan drug-resistant (PDR) and Multidrug-resistant (MDR) pathogens.

What’s Next?

It is both interesting and important to acquire knowledge about the bacterial defense mechanism inside the human body. There are a number of researchers who are working to resolve this problem by developing much advanced medical provisions. Health care can be broadly divided into three categories- prevention, diagnosis and cure. The research is inclined majorly towards prevention and cure for example vaccine development and drug discovery. Developing precise diagnostic tools is equally important as a cure for the disease because accurate diagnosis helps to decide a suitable cure. It is a boon to the society that scientists with different scientific backgrounds are coming together to develop improved diagnostic tools by combining physics, chemistry and biology.

A ViBrANT Move

ViBrANT (Viral and Bacterial Adhesion Network Training) has brought together scientists from different research disciplines who aim to translate fundamental research into better and cost-effective medical aids, specifically against infectious diseases. We are targeting the bacteria at its first step of infection, that is, adherence to the host epithelial membrane. The adhesion of bacteria is responsible for its colonization in the host and also provides bacteria a defense shield against the host immune system. We aim to unravel the factors responsible for the pathogen adhesion and utilize this property of bacterial adhesion for designing better diagnostic tools.

My research

As a researcher, I want to know how Haemophilus influenzae type b establishes infection in the human body. H. influenzae is responsible for causing infectious diseases such as pneumonia, septicemia, meningitis, epiglottitis, septic arthritis especially in children and old age people. Despite available vaccination, a number of cases of H. influenzae infection have been reported every year.

I am targeting Haemophilus surface fibril (Hsf), a trimeric autotransporter adhesin (TAA) in H. influenzae. Hsf is responsible for the colonization of the H. influenzae in the human body and also provide defense against the human immune system.

My approach is to solve the structure of Hsf at the atomic level by the techniques­– X-ray crystallography and Cryo-Electron microscopy. The atomic structure of Hsf will be useful for developing fast and accurate diagnostic techniques and improved medicines against H. influenzae infection.

Schematics of protein crystal diffraction by X-rays to protein structure by computational programs

Another objective is to check the binding partners of Hsf in the human body by Atomic Force Microscopy where we will allow Hsf and its suspected partner to form a complex and then touch an AFM tip on the Hsf surface. The study of the Hsf surface will tell us the binding locations of its partner protein. This information is useful to determine the regions of Hsf that are important for bacterial adhesion and solve the mystery of colonization of H. influenzae in the human body.

Cartoon representation of AFM experiment with Hsf and its interacting partner.

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