New drug to fight ‘superbugs’

Recent increase in the number of bacteria termed ‘superbugs’ that are capable of resisting multiple antibiotic drugs, is causing serious worry to health authorities around the world.

Antibiotics have been the fail-safe remedy for bacterial infections with doctors and health providers coming to depend on antibiotics for everything from minor abrasions  This poses a serious threat to the health of individuals requiring treatment with antibiotics, especially for critical illnesses.

In the United States alone, it is estimated that over two million people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, with 23,000 dying annually because of such infections. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refers to it as “one of the biggest public health challenges of our time”.

An increasing number of bacterial strains are becoming resistant to antibiotics and thus more difficult, and sometimes impossible, to kill. Researchers warn that a future in which we will no longer be able to rely on antibiotics may not be far off and hence the urgency to find novel ways of antibacterial treatment.

Now scientists at the University of Sheffield and allied research centers in the United Kingdom say they have identified a new compound that can effectively target and kill-off some types of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Bacteriologists usually label bacteria under one of two large classes: gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. Gram-positive bacteria include Staphylococci, Streptococci, and Pneumococci — bacteria that infect the skin, the blood, or the lungs.

Gram-negative bacteria include strands such as Escherichia coli, which is responsible for urinary tract infections, or Pseudomonas, hospital bacteria that often infect the blood or lungs.

The new compound  that the scientists called a “breakthrough in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria”, is effective against antibiotic-resistant, gram-negative bacteria and is also showing promise in anticancer therapy.

The team also found that the new compound can make it more difficult for gram-negative bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance, which could also make it a candidate for targeted prevention efforts and could lead to more effective ways of challenging dangerous infections.