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 that people on antibiotics can take 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 from the Bacterial Host Adaptation Research Laboratory 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 rift in the shell of harmful bacteria is an important step forward in combating the rise in the number of superbugs that develop multidrug resistance to antibiotics,” said Australian National University co-author Megan O’Mara.

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.

Dr. Bart Eijkelkamp, ​​left, Dr. Felice Adams and Maoge Zang at the Bacterial Host Adaptation Research Laboratory (Flinders University).

“With the advent of superbugs, we have now been able to show that this greedy bacterium cannot differentiate between ‘good and bad’ host fatty acids and consumes all of these 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 little is known about how it reacts to host-mediated stress.”

“These studies provide new insights into the potential benefits of omega-3 supplements in bacterial infections, particularly during antibiotic treatment,” said Professor Anton Peleg, director of the Infectious Diseases Department at Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.

The two research publications include staff from ANU, Macquarie University, University of Adelaide, Monash University, University of Newcastle, and the SA Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI).

The first article, To make or take: bacterial lipid homeostasis during infection (2021) by Felise G. Adams, Claudia Trappetti, Jack K. Waters, Maoge Zang, Erin B. Brazel, James C. Paton, Marten F. Snel and Bart A. Eijkelkamp, ​​was published in mBio DOI: 10.1128 / mBio.00928-21

A detailed analysis, The membrane composition defines the spatial organization and function of a significant Acinetobacter baumannii active ingredient efflux system (2021) 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, ​​has also published in mBio DOI: 10.1128 / mBio.01070-21

Acknowledgments: This research was supported by NHMRC Project Grant 1140554 to Associate Professor O’Mara and 1159752 to Dr. Eijkelkamp supports.

Polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3 PUFA) are considered to be essential compounds for human health. The human body produces only small amounts of omega-3 PUFAs, so general dietary intake and supplementation of omega-3 PUFAs benefit various aspects of human wellbeing, including for the eyes and brain, and even protection against infectious diseases.

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