Antibiotics breakthrough could save millions from drug-resistant superbugs

Synthetic teixobactin could be used as ‘last line of defence’ drug

Emily Goddard
Tuesday 29 March 2022 01:26 BST
Synthetic classes of teixobactin successfully eradicated MRSA in a study on mice
Synthetic classes of teixobactin successfully eradicated MRSA in a study on mice (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Millions of lives could be saved with a “game-changing” antibiotic that could treat otherwise drug-resistant superbugs following a breakthrough by UK scientists.

Researchers said they had developed new versions of a molecule thought to be capable of killing bacteria without damaging mammalian tissue.

Teixobactin was discovered in 2015, but the new project has developed “synthetic” classes of the antibiotic that could destroy a wide range of microbes taken from human patients, the scientists said.

They also successfully eradicated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is resistant to several widely used antibiotics, in a study on mice.

Lead researcher Dr Ishwar Singh of the University of Liverpool said the breakthrough was a significant step towards unlocking the full medical potential of teixobactin to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

“Our ultimate goal is to have a number of viable drugs from our modular synthetic teixobactin platform which can be used as a ‘last line of defence’ against superbugs to save lives currently lost due to AMR,” he said.

More than 1.2 million people died from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in 2019 as they became a leading cause of death worldwide, according to a study published in The Lancet in January.

An extra 10 million people will succumb to drug-resistant infections each year by 2050, an AMR review commissioned by the government predicted.

Covid is also thought to be speeding up the global AMR threat.

Patients may be treated with just one dose of teixobactin a day for systemic life-threatening resistant bacterial infections, tests suggested.

The synthetic versions can also be kept at room temperature, making global distribution easier by removing the need for cold chains, and they could be produced inexpensively on a large scale, the researchers said.

Dr Singh said the team hoped to eventually get synthetic teixobactin ready for safety testing.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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