Intestines of Mackerel contain bacteria that can kill superbugs


The intestines of Mackerel fish have been identified as the source of a bacteria, Bacillus paralichenformis APC1576, which may offer a solution to the increasing threat of drug resistance.  

A team of researchers led by Prof Paul Ross and Prof Colin Hill at the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre, APC Microbiome Ireland in University College Cork and Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorpark discovered a small protein, Formicin, which is produced by the bacteria found in Mackerel. Formicin is an antimicrobial agent which has the ability to kill a wide range of harmful bacteria.

Research into antimicrobial agents has increased globally in the face of the rise of resistance to drugs including antibiotics. The World Health Organisation estimates in the European Union alone, anti-microbial resistance will cost more than US $1.5 billion and cause 25000 deaths annually. Unless new antimicrobials are identified, drug resistance will transform the medical world. Common infections may become life threatening and surgeries become much more dangerous.

Formicin is a bacteriocin, a small protein which is produced by bacteria. It is classified as a broad spectrum bacteriocin due to its ability to kill a wide range of harmful bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium difficile and Listeria monocytogenes.

Formicin is a unique protein in terms of its charge and composition. It is composed of two peptides, the first of which binds to the target bacteria’s cell membrane, recruiting the second peptide. The second peptide inserts into the cell membrane, forming a pore in the membrane which causes the death of the bacteria cell.

Bacteriocin offer a realistic solution to the problem of drug resistance in a relatively short timeframe. Researchers in the APC Microbiome Ireland have identified a range of other antimicrobial bacteriocins including Thuricin and Lacticin 3147 which will be further developed for medical use in humans and animals. Formicin offers a potential new treatment option against a range of disease causing bacteria.

Full reference:

Formicin - A novel broad spectrum two-component lantibiotic produced by Bacillus paralicheniformis APC 1576

Collins F.W., O’Connor, P.M., O’Sullivan, O., Rea, M.C., Hill, C. and Ross R.P.  Microbiology, September 2016 162: 1662-1671, doi: 10.1099/mic.0.000340


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