Outsmarting killer bacteria: Next generation of antibiotics to combat drug-resistant 'superbugs'

Sep 14, 2010

Antibiotics can work miracles, knocking out common infections like bronchitis and tonsillitis. But according to the Center for Disease Control, each year 90,000 people in the U.S. die of drug-resistant "superbugs" -- bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a deadly form of staph infection resistant to normal antibiotics. Although hospital patients are particularly susceptible as a result of open wounds and weakened immune systems, the bacteria can infect anyone.

Dr. Micha Fridman of Tel Aviv University's Department of Chemistry is now developing the next generation of designed to overcome this kind of bacteria. And the key, he says, is in the bacteria itself.

"We took the mechanism of and used this mechanism itself to generate antibiotics," explains Dr. Fridman. "It's thanks to these bacteria that we can develop a better medication." Conducted in collaboration with Prof. Sylvie Garneau-Tsodikova from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Dr. Fridman's research was highlighted recently in the journal ChemBioChem.

Fighting from within

According to Dr. Fridman, certain bacterial strains include enzymes which help the bacteria to inactivate antibiotics. When the enzymes meet with these antibiotics, they chemically alter the drug, making the antibiotic ineffective and unable to recognize its target.

Turning this powerful mechanism against the bacteria itself, the team isolated the antibiotic-inactivating enzymes from the bacteria, then integrated them into the drugs. With this alteration, the modified antibiotics proved to be effective against typically resistant .

At the heart of this development, says Dr. Fridman, was the chemical modification of the parent drug. Once the researchers identified how the bacteria incapacitated the antibiotics, they were able to create a drug that could block bacterial resistance while maintaining the integrity of the antibiotic.

Killing bacteria, saving lives

These new antibiotics will be a vast improvement on today's drugs, says Dr. Fridman. When fully developed, they could be used to treat infections that are now considered difficult if not impossible to treat with current antibiotics.

Dr. Fridman says that, while the new antibiotics are a few years away from the marketplace, the ability to beat will be invaluable for the future of health care.

Explore further: Structure of sodium channels different than previously believed

Related Stories

Resistant gut bacteria will not go away by themselves

Jun 19, 2007

E. coli bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics will probably still be around even if we stop using antibiotics, as these strains have the same good chance as other bacteria of continuing to colonise the gut, ...

Nanotechnology used to probe effectiveness of antibiotics

Feb 04, 2009

A group of researchers led by scientists from the London Centre for Nanotechnology, in collaboration with a University of Queensland researcher, have discovered a way of using tiny nano-probes to help understand how an antibiotic ...

Recommended for you

Breakthrough points to new drugs from nature

Apr 16, 2014

Researchers at Griffith University's Eskitis Institute have developed a new technique for discovering natural compounds which could form the basis of novel therapeutic drugs.

World's first successful visualisation of key coenzyme

Apr 16, 2014

Japanese researchers have successfully developed the world's first imaging method for visualising the behaviour of nicotine-adenine dinucleotide derivative (NAD(P)H), a key coenzyme, inside cells. This feat ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.