There have been lots of news coverage recently about the threat of antibiotic resistance and quite rightly so. More and more of our trusted antibiotics are becoming resistant to bacteria, mainly through over prescribing and overuse. We are playing a dangerous game and run the risk of going back to a pre antibiotic era where even minor infections can be life threatening. We are already seeing so called superbugs that are very difficult to treat. However we have finally got some good news on this front.
Scientists have discovered a new class of antibiotic that is basically resistant to resistance. Great hey! The new compound which is obtained from soil bacteria, is effective in killing superbugs such as MRSA, but because of the way it works, they bacteria will also find it very difficult to become resistant.
The new antibiotic was discovered by Kim Lewis a microbiologist and professor and colleagues at Northeastern University in Boston. Most of our antibiotics come from soil microbes. But the problem with researching soil microbes is that they are very difficult to culture in the lab, which means that there are many potential candidates out there that we don’t know about because we cannot culture them in the lab.Until now.
Prof Lewis and his team have developed a way to culture bacteria in their normal environment by why of a device called a diffusion chamber, which they can bury back in the soil. This way they produced bacterial colonies large enough to research back in the lab. By repeatedly using this procedure the tested 10000 bacterial colonies to check if any of them produced compounds that could stop the growth of Staph Aureus. And they hit on 25 compounds , one of which is teixobactin, the most powerful one.
On further testing teixobactin was effective in killing a broad range of pathogens including drug resistant MRSA and Vancomycin resistant enterococci.
It works by breaking down the cell wall of the bacteria, which is its main defence. They therefore also postulate that it would be very difficult for bacteria to become resistant to it as the cell wall always looks the same and does’t mutate
This could really be a game changer in our fight against drug resistant infections.