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Garlic to fight chronic infections

Using garlic to destroy biofilm of resistant bacteria can make antibiotics work again. In a new study, researchers from Copenhagen Science City-partner University of Copenhagen used the garlic-compound ajoene, to inhibit small regulatory RNA molecules.

A recent analysis demonstrated that Copenhagen’s research on biofilm build-up prevention and antibiotics resistance is a global field of strength with high investment potential.

Fighting chronic infections

In the new study, the target was robust bacteria in patients with chronic infections. The researchers demonstrated that the ajoene destroys important components in the bacteria’s communication systems, which involve regulatory RNA molecules.

’We really believe this method can lead to treatment of patients, who otherwise have poor prospects, because chronic infections like cystic fibrosis can be very robust. Now we have enough knowledge to further develop the garlic drug and test it on patients, together with a private company’, says Assistant Professor Tim Holm Jakobsen from the Costerton Biofilm Center at the Department of Immunology and Microbiology.

Nature’s Own Defense

The study is the latest effort from a research group headed by Professor Michael Givskov. Since 2005, they have focused on garlic’s effect on bacteria. At the time, they learned that garlic extract is able to inhibit bacteria, and in 2012, they showed that the sulphurous compound ajoene is responsible for the effect. They published the new study in the scientific journal Nature Scientific Reports. It documents ajoene’s ability to inhibit small regulatory RNA molecules in two distinct types of bacteria.

‘The two types of bacteria we studied, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, are very important. They belong to two very different bacteria families and are normally fought using different methods. The garlic compound is able to fight both at once and therefore may prove an effective drug when used together with antibiotics’, says Tim Holm Jakobsen.

To be tested on humans within two years

Previous studies have shown that garlic appears to offer the most powerful, naturally occurring resistance to bacteria. In addition to inhibiting the bacteria’s RNA molecules, the active garlic compound also damages the protective slimy matrix surrounding the bacteria, the so-called biofilm. When the biofilm is destroyed or weakened, both antibiotics and the body’s own immune system are able to attack the bacteria more directly and thus remove the infection.

In 2012 the researchers took out a patent on the use of ajoene to fight bacterial infections. Now the company Neem Biotech has bought the license to use the patent. Their medical product, NX-AS-401, which aims to treat patients with cystic fibrosis, has obtained a so-called ‘orphan drug designation’. This means that clinical trials on patients will be conducted soon.

If the clinical trials show good results, the drug can be marketed as the first in a series of antimicrobial connections with brand new modes of action developed by Givskov’s research team.