Researchers have discovered a new antibiotic unlike any other. Published in Nature (currently free to access), this new antibiotic, found in the dirt, can potentially fight drug resistant bacteria! The New York Times provides a nice summary of the new finding:
The method, which extracts drugs from bacteria that live in dirt, has yielded a powerful new antibiotic. The new drug, teixobactin, was tested in mice and easily cured severe infections, with no side effects.
Better still, the researchers said, the drug works in a way that makes it very unlikely that bacteria will become resistant to it. And the method developed to produce the drug has the potential to unlock a trove of natural compounds to fight infections and cancer — molecules that were previously beyond scientists’ reach because the microbes that produce them could not be grown in the laboratory.
Teixobactin has not yet been tested in humans, so its safety and effectiveness are not known. Studies in people will not begin for about two years, according to Kim Lewis, the senior author of the article and director of the Antimicrobial Discovery Center at Northeastern University in Boston. Those studies will take several years, so even if the drug passes all the required tests, it still will not be available for five or six years, he said during a telephone news conference on Tuesday. If it is approved, he said, it will probably have to be injected, not taken by mouth.
Teixobactin is the most promising candidate isolated from 10,000 strains of bacteria that the researchers screened. In test tubes, it killed various types of staph and strep, as well as anthrax and tuberculosis. Tested in mice, it cleared strep infections and staph, including a strain that was drug-resistant. It works against bacteria in a group known as “Gram-positive,” but not against microbes that are “Gram-negative,” which include some that are major causes of drug resistant pneumonia, gonorrhea and infections of the bladder and bloodstream. Dr. Lewis said researchers were trying to modify the drug to make it work against Gram-negative infections.
Teixobactin attacks bacteria by blocking fatty molecules needed to build cell walls, which is different from the way most antibiotics work. Those molecules are unlikely to change and make the microbes resistant, the researchers said. But if resistance does occur, Dr. Lewis predicted, it will take a long time to develop.