Quorum-sensing control in Staphylococci – a target for antimicrobial drug therapy?


  • Michael Otto

    Corresponding author
    1. Rocky Mountain Laboratories, Laboratory of Human Bacterial Pathogenesis, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, The National Institutes of Health, 903 S 4th Street, Hamilton, MT 59840, USA
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  • Edited by Prof. G.M. Ihler

*Tel.: +406 363 9283; fax: +406 375 967, E-mail address: motto@niaid.nih.gov


Today, we find ourselves in an urgent need for novel antibacterial drugs, as many important human pathogens have acquired multiple antibiotic resistance factors. Among those, Staphylococcus aureus and S. epidermidis play a major role as the leading sources of nosocomial infections. Recently, it has been suggested to develop therapeutics that attack bacterial virulence rather than kill bacteria. Such drugs are called “antipathogenic” and are believed to reduce the development of antibiotic resistance. Specifically, cell-density-dependent gene regulation (quorum-sensing) in bacteria has been proposed as a potential target. While promising reports exist about quorum-sensing blockers in gram-negative bacteria, the use of the staphylococcal quorum-sensing system as a drug target is now seen in an increasingly critical way. Inhibition of quorum-sensing in Staphylococcus has been shown to enhance biofilm formation. Furthermore, down-regulation or mutation of the Staphylococcus quorum-sensing system increases bacterial persistence in device-related infection, suggesting that interference with quorum-sensing would enhance rather than suppress this important type of staphylococcal disease. The chemical nature and biological function of another proposed staphylococcal quorum-sensing inhibitor, named “RIP”, are insufficiently characterized. Targeting quorum-sensing systems might in principle constitute a reasonable way to find novel antibacterial drugs. However, as outlined here, this approach requires careful investigation in every specific pathogen and type of infection.