Magical, ultra-tough new antibiotic that packs a punch
14th June 2017 - Last modified 20th March 2018 - 0 comments
Written by Dr Kelly Hooper.
Recently, I visited the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford and caught the BACK FROM THE DEAD: Demystifying Antibiotics exhibition, which helped explain the importance of antibiotics through time to all ages.
As a recent blog post from one of our science writers, Sarah, mentioned, experts are always warning that we are soon to enter into a post-antibiotic era – where bacterial infections that have been easily treated in the past become untreatable with all available antibiotics.
As well as explaining how antibiotics work, the history of their development, and the issues we face with antibiotic resistance, the exhibition also looked at modern day research and development. While there is still a long way to go in terms of keeping up with demand (and bacteria’s clever resistance tricks!), work in the area is definitely on the up.
This was demonstrated last week when some new research emerged. The research proved to be popular in the national and international media, with newspapers referring to it as a “magical” and “ultra-tough” new antibiotic that “packs a punch” against bacterial resistance to fight superbugs.
In this work, a team from the Scripps Research Institute re-engineered a common and vital antibiotic – vancomycin – to increase its potency and make it “ultra-tough”.
Changes to the molecular structure of the drug mean that the new form has additional mechanisms of action to overcome vancomycin resistance. This re-engineered version differs in three key ways to the original vancomycin molecule:
• Two modifications increase the potency of the antibiotic, meaning that doctors can use less of the antibiotic to fight an infection.
• A third modification enables the molecule to attack bacteria in a different and more successful way by destroying their cell walls
All three modifications combined mean that the new vancomycin has a 1,000-fold increase in activity. It also becomes the first antibiotic to have three independent mechanisms of action, which makes it harder for resistance to build up. Although bacteria may find a way around one of these killing mechanisms, the other two are standing in reserve to continue the fight and combat the infection.
Perhaps there are other antibiotics which could benefit from molecular and structural changes to boost their bacteria-killing powers and prevent resistance build-up. This would definitely be a step in the right direction in the race to combat antibiotic resistance.
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