Scientists have discovered the first new antibiotic in nearly 30 years that can kill serious infections without encountering any detectable resistance, giving hope in the fight against evolving drug-resistant superbugs. The antibiotic teixobactin has been found to treat many common bacterial infections in mice without resistance, including tuberculosis and septicaemia. Researchers said the antibiotic could one day be used to treat drug-resistant infections caused by the superbug MRSA, as well as tuberculosis, which normally requires a combination of drugs that can have adverse side effects. “The discovery of this novel compound challenges long-held scientific beliefs and holds great promise for treating an array of menacing infections,” said Professor Kim Lewis from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. Teixobactin belongs to a new class of compounds and kills bacteria by causing their cell walls to break down. It seems to work by binding to multiple targets, which may slow down the development of resistance. The problem of infections developing drug resistance has worsened in recent years as multi-drug-resistant bugs have developed and drug companies have cut investment. The World Health Organisation warned last year that a post-antibiotic era, where even basic healthcare becomes dangerous due to risk of infection during routine operations, could come this century unless something drastic is done. Dr Lewis is the co-founder of the NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals, which has patented teixobactin. Dr Lewis and his NovoBiotic colleagues sought to address the problem by tapping into new potential sources of antibiotics. They developed a way of growing uncultured bacteria in its natural environment using a miniature device called an iChip that can isolate and help grow single cells. NovoBiotic has since collected about 50,000 strains of uncultured bacteria and discovered 25 new antibiotics, of which teixobactin is the latest and most interesting, Dr Lewis said. Scientists not involved in the work welcomed the finding, but cautioned that human trials of teixobactin would be key. “The discovery of a potential new class of antibiotics is good news,” said Richard Seabrook of Britain’s Wellcome Trust medical charity. “Screening previously unculturable soil bacteria is a new twist in the search … and it is encouraging to see this approach yielding results. “However, we will not know whether teixobactin will be effective in humans until this research is taken … to clinical trials.” Dr Lewis hopes to start human testing in around two years.
ABC News, 9 January 2015 ;http://www.abc.net.au/news/ ;