The Power of Nature & Antibiotic-Resistance

Utilizing the Power of Plants in Medicine

Cassandra Quave, PhD, was featured in the New York Times, NPR, and Scientific Reports for her novel ethnobotanical research in the face of growing antibiotic resistance. Quave, assistant professor in dermatology and the study of human health and her research team have developed two anti-infective compositions that are useful for blocking virulence pathways in bacteria. The compositions block the bacterial cell signaling, and as a result, they block production of virulence factors that are crucial for the progression of the disease process. One compound is derived from Pepper Tree plants in Florida, and the other comes from Chestnut leaves from Southern Italy. Thus far, they have been vetted in animal models with demonstrated efficacy and are well-tolerated in both animals and cultures of human skin cells.

A Forest

It is somewhat inaccurate to say that these technologies are recent discoveries; both are from plants that have been used historically for inflammatory and infectious skin diseases. The potential applications include integration into skin therapeutics, cosmeceuticals, personal care products and cosmetics. There is strong evidence that the compounds are particularly useful for eczema, which afflicts up to 30% of the pediatric population. Eczema affects quality of life greatly and with growing prevalence, there has been a recent push to get increased funding to look for alternative treatments.

Cassandra Quave, PhD
Cassandra Quave, PhD

The technologies are useful beyond pediatric skincare, as well. Both could also be integrated into disinfectant to help keep sports equipment clean, which is a major mechanism for the spread of MRSA. From the 2006-2007 academic year, MRSA infections rose from 4.4% to 14.4% in reporting athlete populations and is increasing in the general population, as well. Sports equipment is often full of bacteria, and even the smallest skin abrasion can act as a breeding ground for MRSA. The compounds act on the temporary reservoirs of bacteria within the equipment and inhibit bacterial movement, which could decrease the risk infection spread. There are other potential applications in personal care products, such as feminine care, to help prevent Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a life-threatening complication of certain bacterial infections. Both compositions are also topically beneficial for treating acne vulgaris. The developments have numerous applications that could benefit individuals across the lifespan with far fewer negative effects than antimicrobial alternatives. Natural product compositions may decrease resistance generation because they are working via numerous mechanisms to inhibit the bacteria rather than a singular mechanism that kills bacteria, which is the function of antimicrobials. The compounds are eligible for regulatory approval through the Botanical Drug Regulatory Pathway instead of FDA. “Quave’s innovative research on naturally-occurring compounds could potentially yield novel therapeutics to treat a variety of skin disorders.” notes Cale Lennon assistant director from the Office of Technology Transfer.

Faster regulatory approval is beneficial not only for Quave’s two botanical compositions, but also for the time-sensitive nature of growing antibiotic resistance. These technologies have the potential to serve as stand-alone treatments, but they could be helpful in conjunction with antibiotics. It is critical to stay ahead of the game in developing alternative technologies to have more tools in the toolbox to treat patients with an increasing prevalence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Although these technologies seem innovative and cutting-edge, the knowledge of the compounds dates back to ancient traditional medicine. Her research represents a breakthrough in the scientific block in understanding how these plant compounds work. The research could not have better timing as the United Nations has set dates to discuss strategy to combat the growing global issue of AMR, which will likely include more research like Quave’s.

Emory News Piece: Brazilian peppertree packs power to knock out antibiotic-resistant bacteria

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