Answer to antibiotic resistance may involve “blinding” a protein named BlaR1 according to New Scientist, 17 Mar 2001, p19. Resistant strains of Staphylococus aureus, a notoriously nasty bacterium otherwise known as golden staph, are able to deactivate antibiotics with an enzyme that breaks them up, but they don’t make the enzyme all the time, only when antibiotics are around. In the absence of antibiotics a protein named BlaI turns off the gene that makes the enzyme. Another protein named BlaR1 in the bacterium’s wall detects antibiotics and deactivates BlaI allowing the enzyme producing gene to go to work. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have worked out how BlaR1 signals to the gene suppressing protein and are hoping to develop a drug that can prevent BlaR1 from recognising the presence of antibiotics and thus preventing the enzyme producing gene from being activated.
Editorial Comment: When penicillin resistant bacteria first appeared many people jumped to the conclusion they had evolved the enzyme that breaks down the penicillin. Now that we are learning how previously unknown genes can be turned on and off in response to changing need, we know that many bacteria are not evolving resistance, but are responding to changes in their environment using already existing built in functions. The presence of a system to cope with problems ahead of time is proof that bacteria were designed by an intelligent creator. (Ref. bacteria, penicillin, antibiotic resistance)