Clue to make green polymers
The molecular machinery used by bacteria to resist chemicals designed to kill them could also help produce precursors for a new generation of nylon and other polymers, according to new research by scientists from Macquarie University, Australia, and the University of Leeds, UK.
Bacteria that are unaffected by antiseptics and antibiotics, often termed ‘superbugs’, are a growing problem, but exactly how they develop resistance is not fully understood.
The gene that encodes the Ace I protein is old, but chlorhexidine was only created in the twentieth century. So, the gene can't have the native function of protecting against chlorhexidine. It's a side reaction that helps the bacteria.
Researchers looked at what other compounds are transported by AceI and its relations, collectively known as Proteobacterial Antimicrobial Compound Efflux (PACE) proteins.
They found good news and bad news. The bad news is that PACE proteins are likely to be future engines of antimicrobial resistance. The good news is that their ability to transport a wide range of substances means that they could be utilised in the manufacture of ‘petroleum-free’ polymers such as nylon.