Scientists find new antibiotic drugs against a wide range of bacteria

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In a new study, researchers have discovered a new class of compounds that uniquely combine direct antibiotic killing of drug-resistant bacterial pathogens.

The research was conducted by Wistar Institute scientists.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared antibiotic-resistant infections as one of the top 10 global public health threats against humanity.

It is estimated that by 2050, antibiotic-resistant infections could claim 10 million lives each year and impose a cumulative $100 trillion burden on the global economy.

The list of bacteria that are becoming resistant to treatment with all available antibiotic options is growing and few new drugs are in the pipeline, creating a pressing need for new classes of antibiotics to prevent public health crises.

In the study, the team aimed to develop new molecules that can kill difficult-to-treat infections while enhancing the natural host immune response

Existing antibiotics target essential bacterial functions, including nucleic acid and protein synthesis, the building of the cell membrane, and metabolic pathways.

However, bacteria can acquire drug resistance by mutating the bacterial target the antibiotic is directed against, inactivating the drugs or pumping them out.

The team reasoned that harnessing the immune system to simultaneously attack bacteria on two different fronts makes it hard for them to develop resistance.

They focused on a metabolic pathway that is essential for most bacteria but absent in humans, making it an ideal target for antibiotic development.

The researchers used computer modeling to screen several million commercially available compounds for their ability to bind with the enzyme, and selected the most potent ones as starting points for drug discovery.

They demonstrated that the new drugs stimulated the immune system with more potent bacterial killing activity and specificity than current best-in-class antibiotics.

All compounds tested were shown to be non-toxic to human cells.

The team believes this innovative strategy may represent a potential landmark in the world’s fight against antibiotic-resistant infections.

One author of the study is Farokh Dotiwala, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center.

The study is published in Nature.

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