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Bicarbonate Alters Bacterial Susceptibility to Antibiotics by Targeting the Proton Motive Force

Dr. Maya Fartha and Dr. Eric Brown of the Michael G DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research.

The antibacterial properties of sodium bicarbonate – the chemical compound which forms the dominant buffering system in the human body – have been known for years. However, it’s mechanism of action has remained elusive. In recent work published in ACS Infectious Diseases, Dr. Eric Brown and his team demonstrate that bicarbonate dissipates the bacterial proton motive force, which many conventional antibiotics are dependent upon for activity and uptake. In the presence of physiological concentrations of bicarbonate, the team showed that bacterial susceptibility to various classes of antibiotics was altered. Further, their team found that bicarbonate exerts antibacterial activity against various disease-causing bacteria and works together with components of innate immunity to inhibit the growth of various pathogens, suggesting it is an overlooked component of innate immunity.

This work highlights that conventional microbiological media may fail to predict in vivo susceptibility of antibacterials that are impacted by physiological concentrations of bicarbonate, and suggests that bicarbonate has a strong potential to be leveraged for its adjuvant properties in the design of novel antibacterial schemes.

Read the full publication in ACS Infectious Diseases.