Antimicrobial Peptides, an alternative to antibiotics

During World War II, a new therapeutic strategy to combat bacterial infections made its first appearance: antibiotics. They are now a well-known response, maybe too much so: decades of use have led to increasing and multiple resistance of bacteria, leaving patients defenseless. In order to develop new antibacterial strategies for certain pulmonary infections, scientific researchers working in the Paris Institut Pasteur have decided to explore alternative options.

A word from the Sponsor

Antibiotic resistance is a real public health issue. The “environmentally sound” approach of the Institut Pasteur and its partners, the Institut Français in Lebanon and Saint Joseph University in Beirut, could lead to new therapeutic solutions.

Marc Lemaire

Air Liquide Santé International, Paris-Saclay Research Centre

Cystic fibrosis: a case study

Professor Touqui’s team at the Institut Pasteur has been working on cystic fibrosis since autumn 2016. This is a genetic disease characterized by the over-abundant production of mucus, which impacts the functioning of the respiratory tract. Cystic fibrosis causes bronchial obstruction, which in turn leads to chronic secondary infections. These are treated using antibiotics. “Patients must come to hospital regularly”, indicates Pr. Touqui. “Yet bacteria in hospital environments are highly resistant to antibiotic treatment. This vicious cycle leads to a medical dead end“.

The hope of peptides

Antimicrobial Peptides are molecules produced naturally by man’s immune system. In the specific case of cystic fibrosis, the mucus produced hinders peptides’ access to the bacteria infecting the patients’ lungs. In vitro tests conducted by Pr. Touqui’s team confirmed the antibacterial action of these peptides and the low risk of bacterial resistance. “We are now preparing the launch of the in vivo research phase to prove that these peptides are not toxic to lungs“, highlights the research leader. If the results are conclusive, the team will then be able to start clinical trials to obtain market authorization for this innovative treatment. The purpose is to be able to treat the infection alongside the mucolytics and anti-inflammatory agents that remain essential to combating the illness.

A new therapeutic solution

The stage of in vivo research requires the acquisition of a gene amplification machine. “Financed thanks to the Air Liquide Foundation, this machine will enable us to study in-depth the production of mucus and inflammation mediators by the pulmonary cells, as well as the production of peptides by the immune system“, says Pr. Touqui. The funding was also used to buy reagents for the chemical synthesis of these peptides, in order to guarantee a sufficient available quantity for the tests.

To find out more

Institut Pasteur