Latest Synthetic Antibiotic is Capable of Eliminating Some Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

An important discovery for sure.

A “game changing” new antibiotic which is capable of killing superbugs has been successfully synthesised and used to treat an infection for the first time — and could lead to the first new class of antibiotic drug in 30 years.

The breakthrough is another major step forward on the journey to develop a commercially viable drug version based on teixobactin — a natural antibiotic discovered by US scientists in soil samples in 2015 which has been heralded as a “gamechanger” in the battle against antibiotic resistant pathogens such as MRSA and VRE.

Scientists from the University of Lincoln, UK, have now successfully created a simplified, synthesised form of teixobactin which has been used to treat a bacterial infection in mice, demonstrating the first proof that such simplified versions of its real form could be used to treat real bacterial infection as the basis of a new drug.

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As well as clearing the infection, the synthesised teixobactin also minimised the infection’s severity, which was not the case for the clinically-used antibiotic, moxifloxacin, used as a control study. The findings are published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

It has been predicted that by 2050 an additional 10 million people will succumb to drug resistant infections each year. The development of new antibiotics which can be used as a last resort when other drugs are ineffective is therefore a crucial area of study for healthcare researchers around the world.

Dr Ishwar Singh, a specialist in novel drug design and development from the University of Lincoln’s School of Pharmacy, said: “Translating our success with these simplified synthetic versions from test tubes to real cases is a quantum jump in the development of new antibiotics, and brings us closer to realising the therapeutic potential of simplified teixobactins.

“When teixobactin was discovered it was groundbreaking in itself as a new antibiotic which kills bacteria without detectable resistance including superbugs such as MRSA, but natural teixobactin was not created for human use.

“A significant amount of work remains in the development of teixobactin as a therapeutic antibiotic for human use — we are probably around six to ten years off a drug that doctors can prescribe to patients — but this is a real step in the right direction and now opens the door for improving our in vivo analogues.”

Dr Lakshminarayanan Rajamani from SERI added: “We need sophisticated armour to combat antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Drugs that target the fundamental mechanism of bacterial survival, and also reduce the host’s inflammatory responses are the need of the hour. Our preliminary studies suggest that the modified peptide decreases the bacterial burden as well as disease severity, thus potentially enhancing the therapeutic utility.”

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Treatment Against Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs Can be Increased Through Nanoparticles

The effectiveness of antibiotic treatments for antibiotic-resistant superbugs can be increased through nanoparticles activated by light, which are also known as quantum dots. This research represents an important development in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

Multi-drug resistant pathogens, which evolve their defenses faster than new antibiotic treatments can be developed to treat them, cost the United States an estimated $20 billion in direct healthcare costs and an additional $35 billion in lost productivity in 2013.

CU Boulder researchers, however, were able to re-potentiate existing antibiotics for certain clinical isolate infections by introducing nano-engineered quantum dots, which can be deployed selectively and activated or de-activated using specific wavelengths of light.

Rather than attacking the infecting bacteria conventionally, the dots release superoxide, a chemical species that interferes with the bacteria’s metabolic and cellular processes, triggering a fight response that makes it more susceptible to the original antibiotic.

“We’ve developed a one-two knockout punch,” said Prashant Nagpal, an assistant professor in CU Boulder’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CHBE) and the co-lead author of the study. “The bacteria’s natural fight reaction [to the dots] actually leaves it more vulnerable.”

The findings, which were published today in the journal Science Advances, show that the dots reduced the effective antibiotic resistance of the clinical isolate infections by a factor of 1,000 without producing adverse side effects.

“We are thinking more like the bug,” said Anushree Chatterjee, an assistant professor in CHBE and the co-lead author of the study. “This is a novel strategy that plays against the infection’s normal strength and catalyzes the antibiotic instead.”

While other previous antibiotic treatments have proven too indiscriminate in their attack, the quantum dots have the advantage of being able to work selectively on an intracellular level. Salmonella, for example, can grow and reproduce inside host cells. The dots, however, are small enough to slip inside and help clear the infection from within.

“These super-resistant bugs already exist right now, especially in hospitals,” said Nagpal. “It’s just a matter of not contracting them. But they are one mutation away from becoming much more widespread infections.”

Overall, Chatterjee said, the most important advantage of the quantum dot technology is that it offers clinicians an adaptable multifaceted approach to fighting infections that are already straining the limits of current treatments.

“Disease works much faster than we do,” she said. “Medicine needs to evolve as well.”

Going forward, the researchers envision quantum dots as a kind of platform technology that can be scaled and modified to combat a wide range of infections and potentially expand to other therapeutic applications.

Drug-Resistant Pneumonia That’s Deadly and Contagious Appears in China

Drug-resistant superbugs have been steadily becoming a bigger problem, and unfortunately, there hasn’t been an adequate amount of resources devoted to addressing the issue. There really needs to be sharp focus on the antibiotic resistance problem before it gets a lot worse.

Doctors in Hangzhou in southeastern China have detected a a type of pneumonia that is both highly drug-resistant and very deadly. It also spreads easily.

The bacterium — a type of Klebsiella pneumoniae — killed five people in an intensive care unit in Hangzhou in 2016, researchers reported Tuesday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.

“This fatal outbreak happened in a brand new hospital with very good hygiene,” says microbiologist Sheng Chen, who co-led the study at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. “Drug-resistant strains shouldn’t have appeared so quickly.”

The microbe can fight off all drugs available in China, Chen says. “We don’t have anything in China to stop it,” he says. “There is a drug available in the U.S. that should be effective against it, but we haven’t tested it yet.”

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When Chen and his team sequenced the microbes found in the infections, they were shocked at what they saw. These bacteria aren’t like other multidrug-resistant pneumonia reported before. They are a fusion of two dangerous forms.

In the past three decades, two types of K. pneumoniae have appeared in hospitals. The first is a drug-resistant form, called CRE, which can fight off even the toughest antibiotics. Last January, this type of pneumonia killed a woman in Nevada. That strain resisted 26 antibiotics.

The second type of K. pneumoniae causes a very severe form of the disease and is known as “hypervirulent.”

This hypervirulent form — which is widespread across Chinese hospitals — causes more damage to the body than other strains do. It can spread through communities. And it can even sicken young, healthy adults, Chen says.

For years, doctors feared the two types would one day combine. And now that it has happened, scientists around the world need to be on alert for these triple-threat strains, researchers at Rutgers University write in a commentary about the new study.

“Their study describes an alarming evolutionary event,” epidemiologists Liang Chen and Barry Kreiswirth write about the emergence of this worrying pneumonia.

“Failure to control its early spread right now, will make a global epidemic of carbapenem-resistant [CRE], hypervirulent K. pneumoniae hard to avoid,” the researchers write.

Approval for the new drug in China would help. In the meantime, doctors can stop it from spreading by identifying outbreaks quickly and isolating people.