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Small molecule inhibitors of bacterial communication - a new strategy for tackling antimicrobial resistance


Bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics currently result in 33,000 deaths per annum in Europe alone. Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) will potentially cost the EU an estimated €1.5 billion annually in healthcare expenses and productivity losses. By 2050, 10 million people are expected to die each year as a result of AMR-related infections.

New strategies are urgently required to deal with this growing crisis. One such strategy involves the disruption of native bacterial communication systems, also known as quorum sensing. Bacteria typically communicate with one another using a ‘language’ based on small messenger molecules. In this way, a colony of bacteria can co-ordinate their responses to environmental stresses, such as the administration of an antibiotic. These responses come under a variety of forms, but one of the most common is the production of biofilm, which shields the bacteria from the effects of the antibiotic.

The aim of this COUNTERMAND project is analyse the messenger molecules utilised by bacteria which controls their resistance mechanisms. We will create new molecules which serve to confuse the bacteria, and prevent them from launching their resistance countermeasures. By blocking the formation of biofilms, the bacteria will again be vulnerable to the effects of antibiotics. We will adopt a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach combining the talents of chemists in Ireland and microbiologists across the EU to find the most effective inhibitor molecules. Importantly, this approach means that a new lease of life can be given to current antibiotics, without the expense and risk involved in the discovery of new antibiotics. This COUNTERMAND project represents a novel and promising solution to tackling AMR, offering significantly improved quality of life for patients and increased life expectancies.

Call for proposal

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Western Road
T12 YN60 Cork
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 196 590,72