A team of scientists and surgeons from Newcastle are
developing a new nasal spray from a marine microbe to help clear chronic
They are using an enzyme isolated from a marine bacterium
Bacillus licheniformis found on the surface of seaweed which the scientists at
Newcastle University were originally researching for the purpose of cleaning
the hulls of ships.
Publishing in PLOS ONE, they describe how in many cases of
chronic sinusitis the bacteria form a biofilm, a slimy protective barrier which
can protect them from sprays or antibiotics. In vitro experiments showed that
the enzyme, called NucB dispersed 58% of biofilms.
How it will work
Dr Nicholas Jakubovics of Newcastle University said:
"In effect, the enzyme breaks down the extracellular DNA, which is acting
like a glue to hold the cells to the surface of the sinuses. In the lab, NucB
cleared over half of the organisms we tested."
Sinusitis with or without polyps is one of the most common
reasons people go to their GP and affects more than 10% of adults in the UK and
Europe. Mr Mohamed Reda Elbadawey, Consultant of Otolaryngology Head and Neck
Surgery, Freeman Hospital – part of the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation
Trust – was prompted to contact the Newcastle University researchers after a
student patient mentioned a lecture on the discovery of NucB and they are now
working together to explore its medical potential.
Mr Elbadawey said: "Sinusitis is all too common and a
huge burden on the NHS. For many people, symptoms include a blocked nose, nasal
discharge or congestion, recurrent headaches, loss of the sense of smell and
facial pain. While steroid nasal sprays and antibiotics can help some people,
for the patients I see, they have not been effective and these patients have to
undergo the stress of surgery. If we can develop an alternative we could
benefit thousands of patients a year."
How the study was
In the research, the team collected mucous and sinus biopsy
samples from 20 different patients and isolated between two and six different
species of bacteria from each individual. 24 different strains were
investigated in the laboratory and all produced biofilms containing significant
amounts of extracellular DNA. Biofilms formed by 14 strains were disrupted by
treatment with the novel bacterial deoxyribonuclease, NucB.
When under threat, bacteria shield themselves in a slimy
protective barrier. This slimy layer, known as a biofilm, is made up of
bacteria held together by a web of extracellular DNA which adheres the bacteria
to each other and to a solid surface – in this case in the lining of the
sinuses. The biofilm protects the bacteria from attack by antibiotics and makes
it very difficult to clear them from the sinuses.
In previous studies of the marine bacterium Bacillus
licheniformis, Newcastle University scientists led by marine microbiologist
Professor Grant Burgess found that when the bacteria want to move on, they
release an enzyme which breaks down the external DNA, breaking up the biofilm
and releasing the bacteria from the web. When the enzyme NucB was purified and
added to other biofilms it quickly dissolved the slime exposing the bacterial
cells, leaving them vulnerable.
The team's next step is to further test and develop the
product and they are looking to set up collaboration with industry.