A new antibiotic treatment has been developed by scientists at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) which offers new ways to fight diseases such as E coli and salmonella in poultry as well as in humans.


The bacterium Bdellovibrio was introduced to the guts of chickens and found to reduce salmonella count by up to 90%, providing an alternative to traditional antibiotics whose effectiveness is becoming reduced due to increase resistance.

“Once we have understood the fundamental nature of an extraordinary organism such as Bdellovibrio, it makes sense that we should look at potential uses for it. The impact of bacterial infections on human and animal health is significant and since antibiotic resistance is a major issue, alternatives from nature may become increasingly important,” said Professor Douglas Kell, chief executive of the BBSRC.

Professor Liz Sockett at The University of Nottingham along with Dr Robert Atterbury and Professor Paul Barrow at the University of Nottingham Vet School completed the research, funded by the BBSRC, and published their findings in the latest issue of the journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

“Bdellovibrio has the potential to be used as a living antibiotic against some major human and animal pathogens, such as E coli and other so-called Gram-negative bacteria,” said researcher Dr Laura Hobley.

“We think that Bdellovibrio could be particularly useful as a topical treatment for wounds or foot-rots but we wanted to know what might happen if it is ingested – either deliberately as a treatment, or by accident.

In experiments Bdellovibrio killed salmonella and E coli by breaking into cell walls and destroying them from the inside without harming the bird or changing their behaviour.