New antibiotic treats superbugs with low level bacterial resistance

February 28, 2023 | Biology

Bacterial resistance typically impedes antibiotic development as failure on this stage never gets the drug to clinical practice. It also limits the drug’s potential marketplace value.

A research team from the University of California - Santa Barbara developed a drug that simultaneously disintegrates most bacterial functions, explaining its ability to kill every pathogen it was tested with and why there was a low-level of bacterial resistance even after prolonged drug exposure. 

Like some great discoveries that were born coincidentally, this one was no exception. It all started with the US Army’s pressing need to charge cellphones while in the field. Derived from the concept where bacteria are miniature power plants, Bazan and his colleagues designed compounds to harness bacterial energy as “microbial” batteries. This idea led to the repurposing of these compounds as potential antibiotics.

Among these chemical compounds that could serve as antibiotics, they were able to determine one that was not toxic to human cells and can kill every bacterial pathogen tested. Unlike most drugs like penicillin that targets a specific germ function, this drug’s unique mechanism of action affects the bacterial membrane, disrupting multiple bacterial functions at once. Another key finding was that bacterial resistance to the drug was indiscernible. 

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The broad-spectrum antibacterial activity, coupled with low-levels of bacterial resistance, makes this class of antibiotics a promising, versatile therapy. Although, further drug safety and efficacy studies need to be performed to understand its clinical benefits and risks.

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