Superbugs are already a major global threat, but health experts predict that the risks will be getting worse in the next few decades.

Resistant to most commonly used antibiotics, these bacteria are powerful and are projected to kill more people worldwide than cancer by 2050. Thus, researchers are racing to find a cure before this projection becomes reality.

Now, a team from the University of Sheffield and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory may have found a solution with their discovery of a new compound that can kill antibiotic resistant superbugs.

A New Compound For Superbugs

In a study published in the journal ACS Nano, researchers reveal that a newly developed compound has undergone testing in the laboratory. During tests, it successfully killed antibiotic resistant gram-negative bacteria such as E. coli.

Gram-negative bacteria, known to cause infections such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and bloodstream infections, are notoriously hard to treat due to their cell walls preventing drugs from reaching the microbe. There hasn't been a treatment for this type of bacteria in the past 50 years nor has a potential drug even reached clinical trials in nearly a decade.

This new compound, developed by University of Sheffield PhD student Kirsty Smitten, may just pave the way for effective treatments against antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Study leader Jim Thomas, a professor from the University of Sheffield's Department of Chemistry, explained that the compound is luminescent, which means that its uptake and effect on the bacteria can be tracked using advanced microscope techniques.

"This breakthrough could lead to vital new treatments to life-threatening superbugs and the growing risk posed by antimicrobial resistance," Thomas added.

Other Possibility Against Superbugs

The new compound from Thomas and his students could be the key to treating superbugs, but earlier in May 2019, another group of researchers suggested another method in a study published in Nature Medicine: genetically modified viruses.

It has already been successful in one patient, 17-year-old Isabelle Carnell-Holdaway, as the experimental treatment helped her survive a life-threatening infection that followed a lung transplant.

NPR reports that doctors genetically engineered a phage — which are known as viruses that infect bacteria — to treat a superbug infection in Carnell-Holdaway. It's the first time this method has been successfully carried out in a human being.

The authors and other experts caution that it's difficult to draw conclusions from a single case. However, it's important to explore every possible solution against superbugs, especially in the wake of the harrowing AMR review predicting infections from antibiotic resistant superbugs could kill an additional 10 million people annually by 2050.

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