Scientists strike blow in superbugs struggle

December 5, 2007

Scientists from The University of Manchester have pioneered new ways of tweaking the molecular structure of antibiotics – an innovation that could be crucial in the fight against powerful super bugs.

The work, led by chemical biologist Dr Jason Micklefield in collaboration with geneticist Professor Colin Smith, is published online today (Wednesday 5 December 2007) and will appear in next issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Using funding from the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), scientists working in The School of Chemistry and the Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre have paved the way for the development of new types of antibiotics capable of fighting increasingly resistant bacteria.

Micklefield, Smith and colleagues were the first to engineer the biosynthesis of lipopeptide antibiotics of this class back in 2002.

They have now developed methodologies for altering the structure of these antibiotics, such as mutating, adding and deleting components.

This innovation provides access to thousands of lipopeptide variants that cannot be produced easily in any other way.

Dr Micklefield said: “The results from this work are essential in the development of the next generation of lipopeptide antibiotics, which are critical to combat emerging super bugs that have acquired resistance to other antibiotics.

“The potent activity of this class of antibiotics against pathogens that are resistant to all current antibiotic treatments makes them one of the most important groups of antibiotics available.

“Our work relies on interdisciplinary chemical-biology, spanning chemistry through to molecular genetics. It follows the tradition of pioneering work in natural product biosynthesis and engineering that has come out of the UK.”

Scientists in Manchester have been doing work on calcium dependant antibiotics (CDA), which belong to the same family of acidic lipopeptides as daptomycin.

In 2003 daptomycin became the first new structural class of natural antibiotic to reach hospitals in more than 30 years.

But researchers say there is already evidence that bacteria are evolving and becoming resistant to daptomycin – leading to the emergence of dangerous new super bugs.

Dr Micklefield added: “If we are to successfully fight and control potent new super bugs in the future, we need to be developing the next generation of antibiotics now.”

Source: University of Manchester

Explore further: Antifungal drug kills TB bug

Related Stories

Antifungal drug kills TB bug

March 12, 2007

Scientists hoping to find new treatments for one of the world’s most deadly infectious diseases say drugs used to treat common fungal infections may provide the answer.

Recommended for you

How bees naturally vaccinate their babies

July 31, 2015

When it comes to vaccinating their babies, bees don't have a choice—they naturally immunize their offspring against specific diseases found in their environments. And now for the first time, scientists have discovered how ...

A cataclysmic event of a certain age

July 27, 2015

At the end of the Pleistocene period, approximately 12,800 years ago—give or take a few centuries—a cosmic impact triggered an abrupt cooling episode that earth scientists refer to as the Younger Dryas.

New blow for 'supersymmetry' physics theory

July 27, 2015

In a new blow for the futuristic "supersymmetry" theory of the universe's basic anatomy, experts reported fresh evidence Monday of subatomic activity consistent with the mainstream Standard Model of particle physics.

Dense star clusters shown to be binary black hole factories

July 29, 2015

The coalescence of two black holes—a very violent and exotic event—is one of the most sought-after observations of modern astronomy. But, as these mergers emit no light of any kind, finding such elusive events has been ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.