In The Art of War, the famed Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu advised that, “The general who wins the battle makes many calculations.”
Researchers at Duke University Medical Center may have employed that philosophy in their efforts to develop a new weapon in the war against the enemy bacteria methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. The group has created a computer algorithm that aims to predict how MRSA is likely to mutate and develop antibiotic resistance.
According to Predicting Resistance Mutations Using Protein Design Algorithm, which appears in the July 19 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists examined mutations in a MRSA enzyme called dihydrofolate reductase, which is the target of antibiotic treatment. They found that the quickly mutating enzyme often tricked antibiotics by changing shape. The researchers then developed an algorithm that they hope once perfected will accurately predict how MRSA bacteria will mutate. The predictions could allow scientists to create antibiotics that would essentially cut the enemy off at the pass.
“We're basically trying to do a pre-emptive strike, and this study is a step toward identifying antibiotics that can pre-emptively deal with possible resistance in nature,” says lead author Ivelin Georgiev, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health who did the research at Duke.