Old Antibiotic Molecule Rendered 1000 Times More Efficient

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The threat of antimicrobial resistance may have just been pushed back by a few years. Antibiotic resistance, one of the most serious threats to global health, is due to the ability of bacteria to evolve to become resistant to antibiotics. This is the case, for example, with staphylococcus aureus. Antimicrobial resistance is estimated to be responsible for 25,000 deaths per year in Europe.

The findings, published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on May 30, 2017, are excellent news: researchers at the Scripps Research Institute have developed an “improved” version of Vancomycin, an antibiotic discovered in 1956, which is effective against staphylococci, streptococci and enterococci.

This “3.0” antibiotic would even be 1,000 times more effective than the original version, according to Dale Boger of the Department of Chemistry at the Scripps Research Institute who led the research.

This new version of vancomycin now has three independent mechanisms of action. First, scientists have managed to counteract the mechanism developed by enterococci to prevent vancomycin from “clinging” to the bacteria and destroying it. With the first step successful, researchers then chemically modified the structure of the molecule in two different places, offering it two new “weapons”, to pierce the wall of the bacteria and prevent them from reproducing.

“This increases the durability of the antibiotic,” says Dale Boger, lead author of the study, in a statement. “The bacteria can not find a way to bypass these 3 mechanisms at the same time. Even if it finds a solution for one of them, it will still be destroyed by the other 2 “. Doctors would therefore need to use fewer antibiotics to treat their patient with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The anibiotic, which has so far only been tested on laboratory cells, will then be tested on animals and then on humans to assess its efficacy and safety.