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.
Dr. Bart Eijkelkamp, left, Dr. Felice Adams and Maoge Zang at the Bacterial Host Adaptation Research Laboratory (Flinders University).
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.
Importantly, our studies suggest that an important mechanism of antibiotic resistance in cells can be negatively influenced by the ingestion of omega-3 fatty acids in food. “
Dr. Bart Eijkelkamp, Study Director and Microbiologist, Bacterial Host Adaptation Research Laboratory, 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 co-author Megan O’Mara of the Australian National University.
Research is crucial in the area of infectious diseases caused by bacteria such as Acinetobacter baumannii, a leading hospital-acquired pathogen with unprecedented antibiotic resistance around the world.
“With the advent of superbugs, we have now been able to show that greedy bacteria cannot distinguish between ‘good and bad’ host fatty acids and consume them all 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 it.”
“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 responds 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.
Zang, M., et al. (2021) The membrane composition defines the spatial organization and function of an important Acinetobacter baumannii active ingredient efflux system. mBio. doi.org/10.1128/mBio.01070-21.