A valuable weapon in war against drug-resistant superbugs: Antibiotic offers hope
Tests show that drug is effective against the same kind of chronic bacterial infections that have killed hospital patients
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent and i. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; four times highly commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigations into the tobacco industry. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Wednesday 13 November 2013
A new kind of antibiotic that causes microbes to digest themselves has been developed by scientists who believe it could become a valuable weapon in the war against drug-resistant “superbugs”.
Laboratory tests show that the drug is effective against persistent strains of the Staphylococcus bacterium and is able to cure laboratory mice of the same kind of chronic bacterial infections that have killed hospital patients.
Kim Lewis of Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, said that the drug, called acyldepsipeptide (ADEP4), works by activating an enzyme within the dormant “persister” cells of the bacteria, which causes these hardened microbial cells to self-digest.
“Persister cells don’t grow. They shut down their metabolism and in order for antibiotics to work against bacteria, the microbes must grow. ADEP4 essentially forces the cells to self-digest. The compound has an ability to sterilise an infection,” Dr Lewis said.
ADEP4 activates a protease enzyme that breaks down proteins within bacteria. However, resistance soon develops against the drug, which is why it was abandoned by the drug industry in the 1980s as a possible antibiotic, he said.
The study, published in the journal Nature, demonstrated however that when ADEP4 is used in conjunction with a conventional antibiotic, such as rifampicin, it is very effective at ridding an infection of the persister cells that are often left untouched by the treatment.
“They become susceptible to killing by any antibiotic essentially. One of the major causes of drug resistance is a large, lingering population of pathogens which happens in patients with chronic infections,” Dr Lewis said.
“If you can rapidly sterilise and get rid of that large population, you then get rid of an enormous source of resistance acquisition,” he said.
Kenn Gerdes of Newcastle University and Hanne Ingmer of the University of Copenhagen said in an accompanying article in Nature that the results were “remarkable” and offer hope for a new way of tackling resistant bacterial infections.
“This growing body of results generates hope that antibiotics for the treatment of persistent infections will be available in the future,” they say.
- 1 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 2 How to turn off/stop 'seen by' on Facebook: Disable it to make your chats seem less passive aggressive
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
- 5 Buckingham Palace guard who attacked passers-by in 'most most violent piece of CCTV footage' police officer had seen walks free
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...
Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...