Scientists have discovered a ‘potential game-changer’ in the war against drug resistant superbugs – a new class of antibiotic that is resistant to resistance.
The antimicrobial compound, Teixobactin, which was discovered using a ‘revolutionary’ procedure, has properties that suggest a new path towards developing antibiotics likely to avoid development of resistance.
This ground-breaking discovery has the potential to spearhead a new class of antibiotics, ‘giving doctors a much-needed weapon in the microbial arm race that has tilted in favour of bacteria’.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria is a threat directly undermining advances in modern medicine. In the US, more than two million people fall ill to such infections and more than 23,000 die as a result, each year.
Given most antibiotics used worldwide today were developed more than 50 years ago – many of which were the product of antibiotic research following World War II – this new breakthrough could delay the onset of many ‘superbugs,’ while ensuring treatable diseases don’t become resistant to currently available and approved medicines.
In 2012, WHO reported approximately 450,000 new cases of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis globally, while bacteria which leads to common infections such as UTIs and pneumonia, have become harder to treat due to increased antibiotic resistance.
Microbiologist and Director of the Antimicrobial Discovery Centre at the Northern University, Boston, who worked as research leader to the report published in the journal, Nature, Kim Lewis said, “Teixobactin kills exceptionally well. It has the ability to rapidly clear infections.”
Prof Lewis and her research team have developed a way to culture bacteria in their natural environment, using a “diffusion chamber”, by repeatedly culturing different species of soil bacteria. They screened 10,000 soil bacteria for antibiotics and discovered 25 new compounds, one of which was Teixobactin.
In an interview with the LA Times, head of Business Development at Wellcome Trust, Dr Richard Seabrook, cautioned Teixobactin is yet to be used in humans.
In fact, it may take up to five years and several hundred million dollars to bring Teixobactin to market, according to the academic-biotech coalition.
So have scientists finally discovered the ‘Achilles heel’ of drug resistant superbugs?
It looks like we might have to wait a little bit longer to find out.