Bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics and methods of treatment that normally stop them from spreading further and causing major health issues.
Whether it’s drug-resistant sexual diseases or harmful bacteria spreading through hospitals, it is becoming a major problem around the world. Experts have described the worrying new trend as a “global health emergency”, with fears that common infections could become untreatable with the century.
Now, a new kind of antibiotic has been developed that could limit multi-drug resistance by targeting and disrupting key elements in bacterial cells. Research, published in the FASEB Journal, found the new antibiotic works by destroying the structure of essential protein to disable bacteria function. At present, most antibiotics simply block the function of essential proteins.
Most antibiotics work by binding to the surface of an essential protein in bacteria so that it is no longer able to function normally. The new antibiotic developed by researchers from the Institute of Glycomics, Griffith University, Queensland University of Technology, Indiana University and Dezhou University uses a different approach.
“Instead of binding to the surface of the protein, we disrupt the structure of the protein, which stops it function,” researcher Yaoqi Zhou said in a statement.
Researchers are also confident the newly-developed antibiotic is less susceptible to antibiotic resistance.
“Indeed, while we saw 500-fold resistance develop to a commonly used antibiotic over 30 days, there was no resistance to our peptide antibiotic,” Zhou added.
The new antibiotic peptide is also different because it is highly specific in targeting and knows only to kill the bacteria that causes disease. This is important as most bacteria in the human body are good for humans, meaning the new approach doesn’t impact them.
During testing on the E, coli virus, the new drug was successful in targeting not only clinical strains of the virus, but also multi-drug resistant strains. The testing was also successful in multi-drug resistant strains of gonorrhoea, with experts hopeful the antibiotic may one day be successful in cancer treatment.
“We can theoretically use the same technique to target cancer-causing proteins and viral proteins, so this will be a unique way to approach drug resistance in cancer patients,” Zhou said. “We’ve done an initial study on cancer cells and we do find it’s able to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. But there’s still a lot of work to do.”
It is also hoped that the success of the new research could help combat multi-dug resistance in bacteria, with plans to take the antibiotic to clinical trials.
The findings follow a study published earlier this month in the Nature Microbiology Journal, which claimed three new strains of superbugs that are resistant to most antibiotics had been detected in Australian hospitals.
The bacteria, known as staphylococcus epidermidis, is already a problem in Europe, where it has the potential to cause untreatable infections. Development in new antibiotics could be a way of tackling major health issues such as this.