Scientists Find Class of Drug That Can Kills Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus in Mice

A new type of antibiotic that kills the superbugs of the hospital has been developed by scientists.

The discovery occurs when scientists raise the alarm about a global increase in antibiotic resistance caused by excessive prescription of common antibiotics.

The innovative drug by researchers at Brown University could be one of a new set of compounds that they hope will treat the dangerous infection in humans with equal success.

Scientists have discovered a new class of antibiotics that can kill methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in mice. The drugs, which are called synthetic retinoid antibiotics that belong to the same family of compounds such as vitamin A. A study published in the March 28, the researchers modified the retinoids, their ability to attack MRSA to reduce the minimum, while maintaining its Minimizes toxicity.

“The molecule weakens the cell membranes of bacteria, but human cells also have membranes,” study coauthor William Wuest, a chemist at Emory University, says in a statement. “We found a way to tweak the molecule so that it now selectively targets bacteria.”

Under the emerging crisis of antibiotic resistance and the development of “multi-drug resistant superbugs,” the task of finding new classes of compounds to combat them becomes increasingly critical. According to a 2010 study, researchers have identified more than 4,000 natural and synthetic retinoids.

Wuest and his colleagues tested 82,000 synthetic compounds with one assay and found two, CD437 and CD1530, kill the MRSA cells by disrupting the lipid bilayers in their cell membranes. It is important to note that the compounds not only destroy the growing cells, but also the so-called “persistent” cells, that is, those that have become inactive and often develop resistance to antibiotics.

“We are very optimistic about the way these compounds function,” study coauthor Eleftherios Mylonakis, a molecular microbiologist at Brown University, tells Forbes.  By striking at the membrane, the drugs are attacking “a very finely tuned part of the bacteria which is very susceptible to targeting by drugs,” he adds.

The researchers also combined CD437 with gentamicin, a commonly used antibiotic, and used it successfully to treat mice infected with MRSA. The bacteria did not develop drug resistance even after 100 days of treatment.

These latest drug candidates have been identified in collaboration with doctors, geneticists, physicists, engineers and chemists at Brown, Harvard and Emory University.

Mylonakis said: “Since the discovery of antimicrobial drugs is happening mostly in the academic world, individual laboratories can not perform all the components of this complex work. Therefore collaborations are absolutely necessary.

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