£3m Boost In Fight Against Superbug

A new weapon against MRSA is being developed with more than £3 million of funding from the Wellcome Trust, Britain’s leading research charity.

Scientists have identified a class of compound that kills the superbug by preventing its ability to divide and multiply.

They hope the drugs, code-named CDI 936 cell division inhibitors, will provide a safe alternative to traditional antibiotics.

Theoretically they could work against all antibiotic-resistant strains of Staphylococcus bacteria, which include MRSA.

By avoiding the destruction of protective “friendly” bacteria in the gut, which are often targeted accidentally by antibiotics, they may also prevent secondary infections by other bugs.

Clostridium difficile, one such bacterium, is becoming an even bigger problem than MRSA after taking advantage of the “open door” provided by antibiotics.

The Wellcome Trust announced it was pumping £3.5 million into developing the new compounds.

The grant to the Oxford-based biotech company Prolysis is one of the first awards from the charity’s £91 million Seeding Drug Discovery initiative, which aims to turn promising scientific ideas into practical treatments.

MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is one of a number of infections estimated to cause 5,000 hospital deaths each year in England and Wales.

However, that figure dates back to 1994 and some experts say the true toll is much higher – possibly four times greater.