A metabolomics pipeline highlights microbial metabolism in bloodstream infections

Cell. 2024 Jun 16:S0092-8674(24)00579-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2024.05.035. Online ahead of print.


The growth of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) highlights an urgent need to identify bacterial pathogenic functions that may be targets for clinical intervention. Although severe infections profoundly alter host metabolism, prior studies have largely ignored microbial metabolism in this context. Here, we describe an iterative, comparative metabolomics pipeline to uncover microbial metabolic features in the complex setting of a host and apply it to investigate gram-negative bloodstream infection (BSI) in patients. We find elevated levels of bacterially derived acetylated polyamines during BSI and discover the enzyme responsible for their production (SpeG). Blocking SpeG activity reduces bacterial proliferation and slows pathogenesis. Reduction of SpeG activity also enhances bacterial membrane permeability and increases intracellular antibiotic accumulation, allowing us to overcome AMR in culture and in vivo. This study highlights how tools to study pathogen metabolism in the natural context of infection can reveal and prioritize therapeutic strategies for addressing challenging infections.

Keywords: N-acetylputrescine; antibiotic resistance; diacetylspermidine; metabolomics; polyamine/diamine acetyltransferase; polyamines; sepsis.