Fighting Infections with Carbohydrates

A discovery made by researchers of UD may be an important step forward in fighting against bacteria. The researchers have created compounds that may prevent infections caused by pathogens. The findings have been published in "Chemistry – A European Journal".

In recent years the international science community has paid great attention to research programmes in the field of carbohydrates, which are more important than scientists thought: It turned out that they play a key role in the communication between cells and between the human body and bacteria, therefore they may play a key role in fighting against diseases caused by pathogens. Researchers at UD dealing with carbohydrate chemistry have made a discovery recently that has drawn international attention.

-  In  our lab we produced carbohydrate compounds, so-called ligands, that may be able to interact with the proteins of bacteria and prevent bacteria from remaining in the body. These compounds are basically able to block the capacity of bacteria to infect the human body – explained assistant professor Magdolna Csávás.

In the research programme launched in 2015 scientists of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Faculty of Pharmacy synthesized carbohydrates and studied their interactions with proteins. The programme has been carried out in cooperation with the Faculty of Science and Technology and a group of Czech biologists.

- We have developed several ligands. Following a series of interaction studies, we found a compound that can be used as a universal tool against many bacteria at the same time – explained the head of the research group.

Magdolna Csávás pointed out that carbohydrate chemistry plays a very important role today, as the fight against pathogens represents a growing challenge. For example antibiotic resistance has reached a level where medical science is hardly able to deal with certain bacteria.

As the proteins studied can be found on the surface of bacteria and viruses, the findings can facilitate the development of therapeutical and diagnostic methods as well.
According to the associate professor, these findings are especially important because a few decades back Hungary was one of the centres of carbohydrate chemistry in Europe, but today the University of Debrecen is nearly the only institution where research in this internationally important field is carried out.

The research group at UD is the legacy of András Lipták. The Széchenyi-laurate chemist, who was a leading researcher in the field of carbohydrate chemistry and immunochemistry and rector of the Kossuth Lajos University, as well as his successors, paved the way for the current research programmes. Researchers of UD have published their findings in a prestigious journal (Chemistry - A European Journal).

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