A superbug antibiotic developed from an existing drug could end the threat of antibiotic-resistant infections "for years to come," according to researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in California.
Dale Boger, co-chair of the institute's chemistry department, said in a statement that a team he led found a way to structurally modify vancomycin to make it potent enough to conquer previously antibiotic-resistant infections. Their work was detailed Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Vancomycin has been a potent weapon against infections for 60 years and Borger said researchers found that they could make two modifications to vancomycin to make it stronger.
"The new study shows that scientists can make a third modification — which interferes with a bacterium's cell wall in a new way — with promising results," the Scripps statement said. "Combined with the previous modifications, this alteration gives vancomycin a 1,000-fold increase in activity, meaning doctors would need to use less of the antibiotic to fight infection."
Boger told CNN that the modified vancomycin makes it harder for superbugs to develop resistance.
"This increases the durability of this antibiotic," Boger told CNN. "Organisms just can't simultaneously work to find a way around three independent mechanisms of action. Even if they found a solution to one of those, the organisms would still be killed by the other two."
Andrew Edwards, a lecturer in molecular microbiology at Imperial College, London, told CNN that it could still be years before clinical trials can be finished so the drug can be mass-produced.
"Hopefully what this means is there will be another option for treating really serious invasive infections," Edwards told CNN. "It's almost like having a new antibiotic."
Nigel Brown former president of the Microbiology Society told the BBC News that Borger's work was a step forward against superbugs.
"This development could be hugely important," Brown told the BBC News. "Vancomycin is an antibiotic of last resort against some serious infections. There has been great concern that resistance has been emerging."
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