MELBOURNE, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- Melbourne researchers believe that a kind of small, translucent fish hold the key to defeating antibiotic-resistant "superbugs."
By infecting zebrafish with bacterial cells that glow in the dark, scientists from Melbourne's Monash University have been able to watch how the immune system fights an infection in real time for the first time.
Professor Anton Peleg, lead author of the study, said modifying the bacteria to block a key metabolic pathway revealed a weakness in the bacteria which immune cells were able to exploit.
"By blocking a metabolic pathway in the bacteria, the immune system triggered an enhanced response to the infection, which increased its defense and helped it fight off the infection more rapidly," Peleg told News Limited on Friday.
"Not only did we achieve improved bacterial clearance, we reduced the severity of the disease.
"If we could find an antibiotic that targets that pathway and inhibits it, it could be an entirely new way of fighting off superbugs, which is desperately needed because we are running out of antibiotics."
Peleg said the researchers used zebrafish, which can grow to 6.4 centimeters in length, in the study because they have an immune system very similar to that of humans.
The superbug used in the study, acinetobacter baumannii, is one of the most threatening infection strains in the world, causing life-threatening illnesses in hospital patients, predominantly.
The prominence of superbugs has risen as antibiotic use to cure illnesses increased in humans and animals, prompting health experts to label the infections as a serious public health concern.
The Monash University study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.