For the first time, Australian scientists have confirmed a link between the role of normal fish oil in breaking down the ability of “superbugs” to become resistant to antibiotics.
The discovery led by Flinders University and just published in the international journal mBio, found that the antimicrobial effects of fish oil fatty acids could prove to be a simple and safe dietary supplement for people to take with antibiotics to make their fight against infection more effective.
“Our studies indicate that an important mechanism of antibiotic resistance in cells can be negatively influenced by the intake of omega-3 fatty acids in food,” says the microbiologist Dr. Bart Eijkelkamp, who heads the Bacterial Host Adaptation Research Lab at Flinders University.
“In the experiments and supplementary supercomputer models, we found that these fatty acids in fish oil make the bacteria more susceptible to various common antibiotics.”
“This crack in the shell of harmful bacteria is an important step in combating the rise in superbugs that develop multi-resistance to antibiotics,” says co-author Megan O’Mara of the Australian National University.
Research is critical in the area of infectious diseases caused by bacteria such as Acinetobacter baumannii, a leading hospital-acquired pathogen with antibiotic resistance unprecedented in the world.
“With the advent of superbacteria, we have now been able to show that greedy bacteria cannot distinguish between ‘good and bad’ host fatty acids and that they all consume them during an infection,” says another co-author, Dr. Felise Adams from Flinders University.
“Our research has shown that fish oil fatty acids become part of the bacterial membrane, making the invading bacterial membrane more permeable and more susceptible to the antibiotics that attack them.”
“We know that Acinetobacter baumannii is one of the most notorious multi-drug resistant pathogens in the world, but how it reacts to host-mediated stress is little known.”
“These studies provide new insights into the potential benefits of omega-3 supplements in bacterial infections, especially during antibiotic treatment,” said Professor Anton Peleg, director of the Infectious Diseases Department at Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.
“To Make or Take: Bacterial Lipid Homeostasis During Infection” by Felise G. Adams, Claudia Trappetti, Jack K. Waters, Maoge Zang, Erin B. Brazel, James C. Paton, Marten F. Snel and Bart A. Eijkelkamp, 9. June 2021, mBio.
DOI: 10.1128 / mBio.00928-21
“The membrane composition defines the spatial organization and function of an important Acinetobacter baumannii active ingredient efflux system” by Maoge Zang, Hugo MacDermott-Opeskin, Felise G. Adams, Varsha Naidu, Jack K. Waters, Ashley B. Carey, Alex Ashenden, Kimberley T. McLean, Erin B Brazel, Jhih Hang Jiang, Alessandra Panizza, Claudia Trappetti, James C Paton, Anton Y Peleg, Ingo Köper, Ian T Paulsen, Karl A Hassan, Megan L O’Mara and Bart A Eijkelkamp, 9. June 20201, mBio.
DOI: 10.1128 / mBio.01070-21
The two research publications include staff from ANU, Macquarie University, the University of Adelaide, Monash University, the University of Newcastle, and the SA Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) funded by NHMRC Project Grants 1140554 to MLO and 1159752 and support cooperation.