Welcome to the Department of Biochemistry, part of the University of Oxford's Medical Sciences Division. We are one of the largest Biochemistry departments in the world and carry out world-class research and teaching. Our researchers come from a range of disciplines and work in a collaborative environment on all aspects of modern molecular and cellular biochemistry. We hope you enjoy reading more about our activities on these pages.
Professor Mark Sansom, Head of Department
Wellcome News for Protein Antibiotics
Protein antibiotics are able to kill biofilms such as that shown in the figure for P. aeruginosa. Biofilms are often insensitive to traditional antibiotics (Click to enlarge)
The inexorable rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria threatens to cast our society back to the days before Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin. Some of the most problematic of these multidrug resistant microbes are Gram-negative bacteria which, because of their additional outer membrane, are not susceptible to antibiotics that are active against Gram-positive bacteria. The Wellcome Trust has recently funded a collaborative award for the development of a new class of antibiotics, based on proteins that specifically kill Gram-negative bacteria. Spearheaded by Colin Kleanthous in Oxford and Dan Walker in Glasgow, and including colleagues in Oxford, Glasgow, London and the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, the new funding will focus on protein toxins known as bacteriocins. Protein bacteriocins are species-specific antimicrobials that are normally produced by Gram-negative bacteria to kill competitors. The WT-funded consortium will investigate the effectiveness of such protein antibiotics on multidrug resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Klebsiella pneumoniae, which pose huge problems in hospitals around the world. Both organisms cause life-threatening lung and blood infections in infants and immunocompromised patients, and have seen alarming rises in multidrug resistance. Recent estimates from the World Health Organisation suggest that more than 50% of P. aeruginosa isolates-the leading cause of mortality in cystic fibrosis patients-are resistant to the most commonly used antibiotics and alarmingly, often resistant even to the antibiotics of last resort.