Some life-threatening bacteria are becoming resistant to existing antibiotics. Swiss researchers at the University of Zurich recently discovered a new class of antibiotics that is able to attack a particularly treatment-resistant class of bacteria known as Gram-negative bacteria.
Gram-negative bacteria have an extra outer membrane, which makes them hard to attack. This protective outer layer stops white blood cells, which fight infection, from ingesting the bacteria. It also stops antibiotics, such as penicillin, from working.
Infections involving Gram-negative bacteria include: Cholera, Typhoid, Salmonella, Legionnaires’ Disease, bladder infections, meningitis and the plague – click here for a longer list.
Currently, only a few antibiotics can target Gram-negative bacteria, and some of them are becoming ineffective, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). And, there have been no new ones since the 1960s.
Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today, according to WHO.
The new antibiotic class recently discovered at the University of Zurich is able to disrupt Gram-negative bacteria’s outer wall.
“The new antibiotics interact with essential outer membrane proteins in Gram-negative bacteria,” said John Robinson from the University of Zurich’s chemistry department, who co-headed the study. “According to our results, the antibiotics bind to complex fat-like substances called lipopolysaccharides and to BamA, an essential protein of the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria. Despite its critical importance, so far no clinical antibiotics target these key proteins required for outer membrane biogenesis,” said Robinson.
The research was carried out with Polyphor AG, a former University of Zurich start-up founded in 1996. The next step is to test one of the new compounds on humans. “POL7306, a first lead molecule of the novel antibiotics class, is now in preclinical development,” said Daniel Obrecht, chief scientific officer at Polyphor and co-head of the work.
Good news indeed.
University of Zurich press release (in English)