New Antibiotic Kills Bugs Without Detectable Resistance

A new antibiotic can kill dangerous bugs without detectable resistance, according to a study published  online on Wednesday.

The antibiotic can kill “superbugs,” which are serious infections that are resistant to standard medications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that superbugs make 2 million Americans ill each year and kill 23,000 people. Researchers warned that humans are at risk of entering a “post-antibiotic” era. This era would mean patients could die from infections that are currently treatable and routine surgeries could become much more dangerous.

Finding new antibiotics has been financially and scientifically difficult in recent years.

Specifically, bacteria can make their own antibiotics to kill rival germs. Researchers have used this method to fight infections in humans, but they haven’t been able to grow bacteria like what’s found in dirt or bread mold in a laboratory…until now.

Scientists led by Northeastern University in Boston discovered a way to grow uncultured bacteria in their natural environment using a device they call the iChip. This device can isolate and help grow single cells.

The researchers tested 10,000 compounds and found 25 new antibiotics.

The one that stands out the most is teixobactin, an antibiotic that can kill bugs in mice without resistance. It killed the superbug MRSA and tuberculosis. However, the new antibiotic wasn’t able to kill Klebsiella pneumonia, which has evolved to resist all antibiotics known to scientists.

Teixobactin has yet to be trialled on humans. Trials won’t be completed for at least five years.

“The discovery of this novel compound challenges long-held scientific beliefs and holds great promise for treating an array of menacing infections,” said Kim Lewis, a coauthor of this study published in Nature.

Teixobactin kills bacteria by causing their walls to break down. University of Bonn’s researcher Tanya Schneider said it works by binding to multiple targets, slowing down their development of resistance and making it difficult for germs to evolve around it.

The new antibiotic that can kill bugs without detectable resistance could potentially be a major breakthrough to postpone or prevent a post-antibiotic era.

[Photo Credit: Bernard Walker]