Researchers herald ‘quantum jump’ in development of new antibiotic to kill superbugs

Scientists believe a new antibiotic which is capable of killing superbugs and has been successfully used to treat an infection could lead to the first new class of antibiotic drug in 30 years.

A team at the University of Lincoln has created a simplified, synthesised form of teixobactin, a natural antibiotic discovered by US scientists in soil samples in 2015.

Teixobactin has been heralded as a gamechanger in the battle against antibiotic resistant pathogens such as MRSA and they believe their findings are another major step forward on the journey to develop a commercially viable drug version based on it.

The team developed a library of synthetic versions of teixobactin by replacing key amino acids at specific points in the antibiotic’s structure to make it easier to recreate.

After these simplified synthetic versions were shown to be highly potent against superbug-causing bacteria in vitro – or test tube – experiments, researchers from the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI) then used one of the synthetic versions to successfully treat a bacterial infection in mice.

As well as clearing the infection, the synthesised teixobactin also minimised the infection’s severity, which was not the case for the clinically-used antibiotic, moxifloxacin, which was used as a control study.

It has been predicted that by 2050 an additional 10 million people will succumb to drug resistant infections each year.

Last year the World Health Organisation (WHO) described antimicrobial resistance as a “global health emergency,” with experts warning that resistance to antimicrobial drugs could cause a bigger threat to mankind than cancer.

The development of new antibiotics is therefore a crucial area of study for healthcare researchers around the world.

Dr Ishwar Singh, a specialist in novel drug design and development from the University of Lincoln’s School of Pharmacy, said: “Translating our success with these simplified synthetic versions from test tubes to real cases is a quantum jump in the development of new antibiotics, and brings us closer to realising the therapeutic potential of simplified teixobactins.

“When teixobactin was discovered it was groundbreaking in itself as a new antibiotic which kills bacteria without detectable resistance including superbugs such as MRSA, but natural teixobactin was not created for human use.

“A significant amount of work remains in the development of teixobactin as a therapeutic antibiotic for human use – we are probably around six to 10 years off a drug that doctors can prescribe to patients – but this is a real step in the right direction.”

The team will now develop a bigger library of simplified synthetic versions of teixobactin.

The findings are published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

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