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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jun 4:

Pathogen-specific antibiotics will help minimize the harm caused to the “good bacteria” in the human microbiome, and in turn, result in a more effective cure for illnesses caused by bacteria and a lower amount of antibiotic resistance, said Nobel Laureate Professor Ada E. Yonath, who delivered the 8th JBS Haldane Lecture at KIIT University in Odisha capital today.

Ada E. Yonath

Professor Ada E. Yonath expressed high praise for Indian scientists. She particularly mentioned Prof. V. Ramakrishnan, with whom she shared 2009 Chemistry Nobel Prize. She also visited Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), the largest free residential tribal institute in the world, and interacted with the students. Commending Dr. Achyuta Samanta, Founder, KIIT & KISS for his selfless service for the underprivileged children, Prof. Yonath said, “My country, Israel has 25000 students, but here at KISS, I see the same numbers. KISS is really impressive.”

Professor Yonath received Haldane Lecture Award from Founder of KIIT & KISS, Dr. Samanta in the presence of Prof. P. P. Mathur, Vice Chancellor, KIIT University and Prof. Mrutyunjay Suar, Director, KIIT School of Biotechnology. School of Biotechnology of KIIT University has been organizing the Lecture Series in honour of J.B.S. Haldane, a celebrated scientist, since 2013. Nobel Laureates Prof. Oliver J. Smithies, Prof. Ferid Murad, Prof. Jean Marie-Lehn, Prof. Sir John E. Walker and other eminent scientists have delivered the lecture in the past.

Topic of Professor Yonath’s lecture was “Challenges in contemporary medicine: Focus on microbiome, Resistance to antibiotics, and Environmental hazards”.

Most modern antibiotics act by interfering with ribosomal functions in bacteria. Antibiotics bind to important sites on the ribosomes of bacterial pathogens, preventing the translation of the genetic code into proteins. Without essential proteins, the pathogen dies, she told a packed auditorium of educationists, academicians, scientists and students.

All antibiotics are meant to kill bacteria, whether good or bad. “We’re trying to design pathogen-specific antibiotics,” she informed. For this structure of the pathogen needs to be identified quickly.

Now, it is possible to identify the structure of a particular pathogen in 3 – 6 months through crystal microscope, noted Prof. Yonath, the Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Professor of Structural Biology and Director of the Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

“Resistance to antibiotics is one of the most severe problems in modern medicines. It is unlikely we can ever eliminate antibiotic resistance as bacteria want to live. They find a way to exist by modifying the anchors that antibiotics bind to, and they can do it very quickly”, said Prof. Yonath. However, there are ways to combat bacterial resistance. For example, drugs made of two compounds can reinforce each other and can bind with more anchors on ribosomes, increasing the potency of the antibiotics manifold. These alternative interactions reduce the rate of bacterial resistance, she explained.

However, there are ways to combat bacterial resistance. For example, drugs made of two compounds can reinforce each other and can bind with more anchors on ribosomes, increasing the potency of the antibiotics manifold. These alternative interactions reduce the rate of bacterial resistance, she explained.

Prof. Yonath won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2009 for her work determining the structure of ribosomes using cryo-crystallography, which freezes cellular components so they can be viewed with X-rays. She and her research team developed the technique in conjunction with the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS), a powerful synchrotron X-ray facility.

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