Newly Discovered Antibiotic Kills Pathogens Without Resistance





Health, 17 Jan - 2015 ,

Newly Discovered Antibiotic Kills Pathogens Without Resistance
Newly discovered antibiotic kills pathogens

For years, pathogens' resis­tance to antibi­otics has put them one step ahead of researchers, which is causing a public health crisis, according to Uni­ver­sity Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor Kim Lewis.

For years, pathogens' resis­tance to antibi­otics has put them one step ahead of researchers, which is causing a public health crisis, according to Uni­ver­sity Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor Kim Lewis. But in new research, Lewis and his col­leagues present a newly dis­cov­ered antibi­otic that elim­i­nates pathogens without encoun­tering any detectable resistance -- a finding that chal­lenges long-​​held sci­en­tific beliefs and holds great promise for treating chronic infec­tions like tuber­cu­losis and those caused by MRSA.

North­eastern researchers' pio­neering work to develop a novel method for growing uncul­tured bac­teria led to the dis­covery of the antibi­otic, called teixobactin, and Lewis' lab played a key role in ana­lyzing and testing the com­pound for resis­tance from pathogens. Lewis, who is the paper's lead author, said this marks the first dis­covery of an antibi­otic to which resis­tance by muta­tions of pathogens have not been identified. Lewis and North­eastern biology pro­fessor Slava Epstein co-​​authored the paper with col­leagues from the Uni­ver­sity of Bonn in Ger­many, Novo­Bi­otic Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals in Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts, and Selcia Lim­ited in the United Kingdom.

The research team says teixobactin's dis­covery presents a promising new oppor­tu­nity to treat chronic infec­tions caused by staphy­lo­coccus aureus, or MSRA, that are highly resis­tant to antibi­otics, as well as tuber­cu­losis, which involves a com­bi­na­tion of ther­a­pies with neg­a­tive side effects.

The screening of soil microor­gan­isms has pro­duced most antibi­otics, but only 1 per­cent of them will grow in the lab, and this lim­ited resource was over­mined in the 1960s, Lewis explained. He and Epstein spent years seeking to address this problem by tap­ping into a new source of antibi­otics beyond those cre­ated by syn­thetic means: uncul­tured bac­teria, which make up 99 per­cent of all species in external envi­ron­ments. They devel­oped a novel method for growing uncul­tured bac­teria in their nat­ural envi­ron­ment, which led to the founding of Novo­Bi­otic. Their approach involves the iChip, a minia­ture device Epstein's team cre­ated that can iso­late and help grow single cells in their nat­ural envi­ron­ment and thereby pro­vides researchers with much improved access to uncul­tured bac­teria. Novo­Bi­otic has since assem­bled about 50,000 strains of uncul­tured bac­teria and dis­cov­ered 25 new antibi­otics, of which teixobactin is the latest and most inter­esting, Lewis said.

The antibi­otic was dis­cov­ered during a rou­tine screening for antimi­cro­bial mate­rial using this method. Lewis then tested the com­pound for resis­tance devel­op­ment and did not find mutant MSRA or Mycobac­terium tuber­cu­losis resis­tant to teixobactin, which was found to block sev­eral dif­ferent tar­gets in the cell wall syn­thesis pathway.

"Our impres­sion is that nature pro­duced a com­pound that evolved to be free of resis­tance," Lewis said. "This chal­lenges the dogma that we've oper­ated under that bac­teria will always develop resis­tance. Well, maybe not in this case."


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