Research Highlight

Antibiotic could keep Parkinson’s at bay

doi:10.1038/nindia.2019.130 Published online 14 October 2019

Kanamycin, an antibiotic widely used for treating various bacterial infections, may halt the pathological processes that lead to Parkinson’s disease, a study reveals1.

Since the discovery of a new drug is expensive and time-consuming, this re-purposed drug offers an inexpensive way to treat this disease.

Exposure to pesticides and to genetic mutation, particularly mutations in a gene that encodes a neuronal protein alpha-synuclein, have been shown to trigger this disorder. These create structural defects in the protein, making it aggregate and form clumps that gradually destroy neurons in the parts of the brain that control the body’s movements.

To date, there is no drug for Parkinson’s. In their search for a therapy, scientists, led by Krishnanda Chattopadhyay from the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology in Kolkata, India, investigated the formation of the protein-based clumps and their inhibition by kanamycin in artificial lipid vesicles and in solution.

Lipid in actual vesicles in nerve cells accelerates alpha-synuclein aggregation. In artificial vesicles that mimic the actual vesicles, kanamycin disrupted the lipid-induced protein’s aggregation – a key process that eventually results in Parkinson’s. The antibiotic also stopped the protein’s aggregation in solution.

A drug can be effective in the brain only if it reaches the brain by crossing the blood-brain barrier. Kanamycin doesn’t efficiently pass through such a barrier in healthy adults. However, the antibiotic, the researchers say, might permeate the barrier, which is weakened in patients with Parkinson’s.

The antibiotic can provide leads for the identification and development of other potential drug molecules for this disease, says lead author Anindita Mahapatra.


1. Mahapatra, A. et al. An aminoglycoside antibiotic inhibits both lipid-induced and solution-phase fibrillation of α-synuclein in vitroChem. Commun. (2019) Doi: 10.1039/C9CC04251B