New Antibiotics Breakthrough: Back to Soil with Antibiotics (Teixobactin)
Lenny is burning the midnight oil studying for her pharma exams tomorrow. Trying hard to concentrate and understand the drugs in the drug book, she just couldn’t help but groan in frustration. “How will I be able to do this? These drugs are such a hassle” she thinks to herself. But then again, all the drugs listed in the handbook have made wonders through the years, saving lives and helping patients to recover. While reading all about antibiotics, two thoughts come into mind. “How long does it take to develop new drugs? Are there even new drugs discovered in recent years?”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2012, there were about 450,000 new cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) worldwide. And extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) has been identified in 92 countries.Many of the antibiotics used today were discovered decades ago, and since then, microbes have advanced into resistant strains that do not yield to them.
Because of this alarming scenario plus the fact that there are barely any new antibiotics in the pipeline, the WHO recently made a move to warn that we are approaching a “post-antibiotic era” where people could die from ordinary infections and minor injuries.
A new discovery – Teixobactin
For the first time in about 30 years, a new antibiotic has been discovered. Not only that, it has also been hailed as a potential game changer in the fight against the growing resistance to drugs. In other words, scientists have come across a new class of antibiotic that is resistant to resistance.
Previously, 99 per cent of microbes will not grow in laboratory conditions. However, a team from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, have discovered a way of using an electronic chip to grow the microbes in the soil and then segregate their antibiotic chemical compounds. They found 25 potential antibiotics, of which one, teixobactin, appeared the most powerful. They discovered that Teixobactin, is highly effective against common bacterial infections Clostridium difficile, Mycobacterium tuberculous and Staphylococcus aureus.
Teixobactin has been found to treat many common bacterial infections like tuberculosis, septicaemia and C. diff, and could be accessible within five years. A more important feature of this drug is that it could pave the way for a new generation of antibiotics because of the way it was discovered.
This new compound, which comes from soil bacteria, kills deadly superbugs like MRSA. Scientists have always believed that the soil was jam-packed with new and potent antibiotics because bacteria have developed new ways to fight off other microbes. And because of the way it destroys their cell wall – the pathogens will find it very hard to mutate into resistant strains.The researchers believe this means the microbe can mutate all it likes, but its cell walls will always be its Achilles heel.
According to Professor Kim Lewis, the Director of the Antimicrobial Discovery Centre , “Apart from the immediate implementation, there is also I think a paradigm shift in our minds because we have been operating on the basis that resistance development is inevitable and that we have to focus on introducing drugs faster than resistance. Teixobactin shows how we can adopt an alternative strategy and develop compounds to which bacteria are not resistant.”
Together with his colleagues, he concluded, “The properties of this compound suggest a path towards developing antibiotics that are likely to avoid development of resistance.”