Scientists have discovered a novel compound which visualises and kills antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria that cause infections such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections, a finding that may help combat the rapidly emerging global threat of superbugs.
The team, led by Jim Thomas from the University of Sheffield in the UK, is testing new compounds on antibiotic resistant gram-negative bacteria, including pathogenic E coli.
The research, published in the journal ACS Nano, describes the compound which kills gram-negative E coli, including a multidrug resistant pathogen said to be responsible for millions of antibiotic resistant infections worldwide annually.
Gram-negative bacteria strains can cause infections including pneumonia, urinary tract infections and bloodstream infections.
They are difficult to treat as the cell wall of the bacteria prevents drugs from getting into the microbe.
Antimicrobial resistance is already responsible for thousands of deaths in each year, and unless this rapidly emerging threat is addressed, it is estimated by 2050 more than 10 million people could die every year due to antibiotic resistant infections.
Doctors have not had a new treatment for gram-negative bacteria in the last 50 years, and no potential drugs have entered clinical trials since 2010.
"As the compound is luminescent it glows when exposed to light. This means the uptake and effect on bacteria can be followed by the advanced microscope techniques," said Thomas.
"This breakthrough could lead to vital new treatments to life-threatening superbugs and the growing risk posed by antimicrobial resistance," he said.
The research shows that the compound seems to have several modes of action, making it more difficult for resistance to emerge in the bacteria.
The next step of the research will be to test it against other multi-resistant bacteria.
In a recent report on antimicrobial resistant pathogens, the World Health Organization (WHO) put several gram-negative bacteria at the top of its list, stating that new treatments for these bacteria were 'Priority 1 Critical' because they cause infections with high death rates, are rapidly becoming resistant to all present treatments and are often picked up in hospitals.
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