Teixobactin is a new antibiotic in the class of drugs that could help in the fight against superbugs, which are able to fight off most antibiotics they encounter. The new drug could be prescribed to treat a wide range of bacterial infections now largely immune from traditional antibiotics.
Bacteria may take decades to adapt to the new class of medicines, researchers report. This welcome news is due to the unusual nature of the drug, and how it battles the harmful microorganisms.
Researchers examined 10,000 strains of bacteria that live in soil, grown in their natural habitat. Compounds produced by these organisms were then used on harmful bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus (staph) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the bacteria responsible for tuberculosis).
Teixobactin was one of the materials produced by researchers that proved to be highly effective against a wide range of infections. Traditional methods of producing antibiotics from bacteria often only produce drugs already in service.
"Teixobactin is a promising therapeutic candidate; it is effective against drug-resistant pathogens in a number of animal models of infection," developers of the antibiotic reported in a new journal article.
Drug-resistant bacteria are posing a major health threat to people around the globe.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a form of staph infection, is one of the most commonly acquired forms of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. From 1999 to 2005, the number of people hospitalized with MRSA in the United States increased 62 percent, from 294,570 to 477,927 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Bacteria are living beings, and their genetic code changes over the course of generations. As they evolve, the microorganisms develop increasingly better defenses to antibiotic drugs used to treat disease. If even a small population of bacteria survives treatment with a drug, they can replicate other organisms with similar protections.
Teixobactin prevents bacteria from forming cell walls, by binding onto two types of lipids (a group of waxy and oily chemicals). This not only stops the growth of the microorganisms, but the bacteria are unable to mutate to fight the drug.
Most modern antibiotics work by targeting proteins within bacterial cells. Mutations allow some bacteria to survive treatment, leading to antibiotic-resistant varieties of the disease-causing life form. Teixobactin clasps directly onto fatty components of the cellular wall, tearing them apart, with little chance of survival.
Vancomycin is another antibiotic that functions in a similar manner. The drug was developed 30 years ago, and only recently have bacteria started to develop resistance to the medicine.
The article "A New Antibiotic Kills Pathogens without Detectable Resistance," detailing the development of the new antibiotic drugs, was published in the journal Nature.