Three antibiotics that are ineffective against antibiotic-resistant “superbug” bacteria when used individually have been found to wipe out the deadly pathogen when combined as a trio, according to new research.
Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have killed the bug — methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) — in test tubes and laboratory mice using the three-drug combo and believe it may work in people.
"MRSA infections kill 11,000 people each year in the United States, and the pathogen is considered one of the world's worst drug-resistant microbes," said lead researcher Gautam Dantas, an associate professor of pathology and immunology. "Using the drug combination to treat people has the potential to begin quickly because all three antibiotics are approved by the FDA."
The study, published online in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, found the three drugs — meropenem, piperacillin, and tazobactam — are from a class of antibiotics called beta-lactams that has not been effective against MRSA for several decades.
But when tested as a combo therapy against 73 different variants of the MRSA, the drugs worked in every case.
Dantas explained that the drugs attack the cell wall of bacteria, and work in a “synergistic manner,” meaning they are more effective combined than each alone.
"This three-drug combination appears to prevent MRSA from becoming resistant to it," Dantas said. "We know all bacteria eventually develop resistance to antibiotics, but this trio buys us some time, potentially a significant amount of time."
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