An old antibiotic has been called back to duty and, armed with tweaks, is able to combat six types of modern-day drug-resistant bacteria, commonly referred to as superbugs.
Antibiotics are one of the most widely prescribed drugs by doctors. Unfortunately, the rampant use of antibiotics has allowed bacteria to evolve and develop strong resistance, ensuring they are able to survive in the human body. Simply upping the dosage of antibiotics is and has always been counterproductive, and the rise of drug-resistant bacteria has become one of the biggest challenges facing public health today.
Looking at the continually-depleting arsenal of medicines that can effectively combat this new breed of bacteria, researchers had to look into the history books and call back an old-timer back from retirement. New research suggests that old and previously discarded as “ineffective” antibiotics could be altered to fight this global problem.
Researchers in the U.S have realized they could slightly modify an old antibiotic and make it effective again. The newly tweaked and armed antibiotic is now capable of tackling six different drug-resistant bacteria. These powerful new generation bacteria are known to cause various respiratory and sexually transmitted diseases.
The antibiotic Spectinomycin was originally developed to combat gonorrhea. It worked by interrupting how cells create proteins, which was considered an effective way to halt the growth of the bacteria during the early days of the medicine. Though the drug was safe, it wasn’t as effective as required and was eventually phased out.
Research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis caused pharmacists to dust-off the files, owing to the possibility of boosting the drug’s potency. The researchers were interested in the way Spectinomycin binds itself to the part of a cell that synthesizes proteins, known as the ribosomes.
By substituting a single benzyl molecule into the antibiotic, the researchers enhanced the drug’s ability to bind to the cell’s ribosomes to fight a range of bacterial infections, shared biological chemist Richard Lee.
“This study demonstrates how classic antibiotics derived from natural products can be redesigned to create semi-synthetic compounds to overcome drug resistance.”
The team has already developed six compounds that form a new class of antibiotics called Aminomethyl Spectinomycins. Testing has proven these drugs to be very effective against a range of bacteria, including “a particularly resistant strain of Streptococcus pneumoniae that resists many existing drugs.”
The researchers are now looking at the possibility of treating tuberculosis, which is a leading cause of global illness and death, with these classic antibiotics with a new twist.
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