CORDIS - EU research results

Bacteriocins and human commensal bacteria as a new strategy to inhibit the opportunistic human pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae

Project description

Bacterial defense molecules to tackle antibiotic resistance

A growing number of infections are getting harder to treat because the causative bacteria become resistant to antibiotics. Although it is a natural process generated due to selective pressure placed on bacteria, the misuse and overuse of antibiotics is exacerbating the phenomenon. To address the imminent need for new antimicrobial drugs, the EU-funded BACKSPiN project will use bacteriocins, defence molecules produced by certain bacteria to inhibit the growth of other threatening bacteria. The work will focus on the screening of bacteriocins against Streptococcus pneumoniae, a pathogen associated with pneumonia. The ultimate goal is to generate a bacteriocin cocktail that can be administered alone or in combination with other antibiotics to treat resistant pathogens.


When the Noble Prize-winning Alexandre Fleming discovered antibiotics, he already noticed that microorganisms developed resistance mechanisms to survive. Therefore, he anticipated that a misuse of antimicrobial compounds to treat infections will drive the selection of hyper-resistant strains and the resurgence of almost-eradicated infectious diseases. Nowadays, the problem is so critical that the World Health Organization foresees that superbugs will outcompete cancer and cardiovascular diseases to become the first cause of mortality on the planet in less than 30 years (horizon 2050). Recently, the international organization drew a list of 10 priority pathogens that includes Streptococcus pneumoniae, a bacterium notorious in pneumonia (major upper respiratory tract infections), endocarditis, meningitis and brain abscess. To replace or restore antibiotic action, we thus need to find alternative strategies. In this proposal, I aim to use bacteriocins, small antimicrobial peptides secreted by bacteria, to kill S. pneumoniae. They are currently underexploited for human need but feature many valuable characteristics (e.g. efficiency, evolvability, specific spectrum, cheap/easy production, high sequence diversity, stability) complementary to antibiotics. I will test a collection of hundreds of bacteriocins and, according to their mode of action, will rationally assemble “overwhelming” bacteriocin cocktails to prevent emergence of resistance. In parallel, a tantalizing idea would be to exploit the beneficial bacteria of our microbiota and mobilize their bacteriocins to treat local infections. So, I will perform ex vivo infection of human epithelia with S. pneumoniae and test how bacteriocin-induced S. salivarius, a commensal bacterium of our gut, influences it. Besides generating valuable fundamental insight into the S. pneumoniae resistance mechanisms and infection cycle, the results of this project will also pave the way to fight against other notorious pathogens.


Net EU contribution
€ 203 149,44

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Schweiz/Suisse/Svizzera Région lémanique Vaud
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 203 149,44