New antibiotic for hospital superbug looks promising

Oct 12, 2010
New antibiotic for hospital superbug looks promising
Image: Clostridium difficile. Credit: Annie Cavanagh/Wellcome Images

A new class of antibiotic specifically designed to target the hospital superbug Clostridium difficile has proved to be more effective than current treatments in preclinical studies.

According to results reported today by UK company Summit, the new compound clears C. difficile and provides total protection from recurrence in an animal model of infection. The compound is also effective against a panel of clinical isolates taken from people infected with C. difficile.

The new antibiotic is being developed with support from a Wellcome Trust Seeding Drug Discovery award.

The new findings show that SMT 19969 targets C. difficile with greater specificity than any other known antibiotic, while leaving the natural populations of in the gut unharmed. This is important because ‘friendly’ bacteria in the gut are needed to aid with digestion and are a natural part of the body’s defences against invading bacteria.

Antibiotic resistance is an increasing concern but the findings show an unprecedentedly low incidence of bacterial resistance to the new compound - significantly lower than for any other antibiotic targeting C. difficile.

William Weiss, Director of Pre-Clinical Services at the University of North Texas Health Science Centre in Fort Worth, who collaborated on the preclinical studies, explained: “These results are very promising and show that SMT 19969 exhibits a clearly defined antibiotic effect and is superior to currently approved treatment options. If these results are replicated in man, SMT 19969 has the potential to become a new and highly effective antibiotic for the treatment of C. difficile infections.”

Steven Lee, Chief Executive Officer at Summit, added: “The positive results reported demonstrate the tremendous progress that our C. difficile programme has made, and with the financial support of the Wellcome Trust, Summit looks forward to continuing to advance SMT 19969 through to human clinical trials.”

C. difficile is a life-threatening infection for which the only current therapy options are broad-spectrum - which are not very effective, meaning that recurrence rates are high. In 2009 in the UK, C. difficile was responsible for approximately five times more deaths than MRSA, while the combined annual cost of care in Europe and North America is estimated at $7 billion (£4.4bn).

Rick Davis, Business Development Manager at the Wellcome Trust, commented: “C. difficile infections pose a serious healthcare challenge and there is a pressing need to develop new antibiotic treatments. The Wellcome Trust is pleased with the excellent progress Summit has made towards development of a potential new treatment.”

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