Teixobactin, a new antibiotic made from dirt, has been found by Northeastern University researchers to kill super bugs previously resistant to other treatments, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
Northeastern professor Kim Lewis said in a university news release
that the discovery could eliminate pathogens without encountering any detectable resistance, leading to new ways to treat infections like tuberculosis.
"Now, we can start changing our thinking about strategies for antibiotic discovery," said Lewis. "So far, the strategy has been based on developing new antibiotics faster than the pathogens acquire resistance. Teixobactin presents a new opportunity to develop compounds that are essentially free of resistance – a more intelligent approach."
Lewis and fellow Northeastern biology professor Slava Epstein co-authored the research with professors from the University of Bonn in Germany, NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Selcia Limited in the United Kingdom, according to Northeastern University.
Teixobactin was discovered during a routine screening for antimicrobial material in soil microorganisms, said Lewis.
"Our impression is that nature produced a compound that evolved to be free of resistance," he said. "This challenges the dogma that we've operated under that bacteria will always develop resistance. Well, maybe not in this case."
Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post reported
that Teixobactin beat MRSA and drug-resistant tuberculosis in cell cultures and in mice.
"And, importantly, it did so without killing the mice," Feltman wrote. "That was actually a concern: The drug performed so well in cell cultures that the researchers assumed it would blindly kill mammalian cells along with bacteria. But the mice, who were infected with MRSA and given pneumonia, didn't die or have notable side effects."
Feltman said, though, that antibiotics are not the cash cow for drug companies other medicines are, so new discoveries that reach the marketplace don't come often.
"The world needs new antibiotics, and several new classes of them – distinguished by unique chemistry and new methods of action against the microbes they fight – are in the research pipeline," Feltman wrote. "If Teixobactin makes it to the market, it could be the first new class of antibiotic in decades."
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