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New class of antibiotics may be capable of killing superbugs



When I was younger my mother got me a job in a hospital as a nurse’s aide while I finished my studies at university. As part of my duties I had to ensure patients that had methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) were well taken care of. I was in my second year of University at that time and was vaguely familiar with this bug. Then came vancomycin resistant Enterococcus (VRE).
I left.

Anne Stych of Biz Women reports

Scientists studying microorganisms living in soil have discovered a new class of antibiotics that could kill deadly superbugs without triggering resistance.
The discovery leads researchers to believe there’s “a reservoir of antibiotics in the environment we haven’t accessed yet,” said Sean Brady, an associate professor at Rockefeller University in New York, who led the study.

The research, published in the journal Nature Microbiology, said the newly-discovered antibiotics kill superbugs including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a potentially deadly infection that is resistant to several antibiotics.

A team led by Brady discovered the new class of antibiotics, called malacidins, while cloning and sequencing DNA from microorganisms in soil samples contributed by people across the United States, The Washington Post reported.

They were looking for microorganisms with a known gene that acts as an “on/off” switch and makes it more difficult for microbes to develop antibiotic resistance, per the Post.

The World Health Organization (WHO) last month called antibiotic resistance a “serious situation” worldwide in both low-income and high-income countries.

The organization’s research showed that resistance to commonly-used antibiotics varied widely among the 22 reporting countries, with resistance to penicillin in bacterial pneumonia cases ranging from zero to 51 percent, while E coli bacteria antibiotic resistance levels ranged from 8 percent to 65.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year at least 2 million people in the United States become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. At least 23,000 people die as a direct result, while many more die of conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.

Worldwide, deaths from antibiotic-resistant infections are predicted to reach10 million a year by 2050, per the Post.

“Some of the world’s most common — and potentially most dangerous — infections are proving drug-resistant“, said Dr. Marc Sprenger, director of the WHO Antimicrobial Resistance Secretariat. “And most worrying of all, pathogens don’t respect national borders. That’s why WHO is encouraging all countries to set up good surveillance systems for detecting drug resistance that can provide data to this global system.”

Researchers said although the discovery is promising and reveals the untapped biodiversity of our ecosystem, it will take years for the new class of antibiotics to be developed for practical use.