‘Game changing’ antibiotic can kill superbugs

A ‘game changing’ new antibiotic which is capable of killing superbugs has been successfully synthesised and used to treat an infection for the first time, and could lead to the first new class of antibiotic drug in 30 years, according to a new report published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Researchers from the University of Lincoln have successfully created a simplified, synthesised form of teixobactin – a natural antibiotic discovered by US scientists in soil samples in 2015 which has been used to treat a bacterial infection in mice, demonstrating the first proof that such simplified versions could be used to treat real bacterial infection as the basis of a new drug.

The team at Lincoln developed a library of synthetic versions of teixobactin by replacing key amino acids at specific points in the antibiotic’s structure to make it easier to recreate. After these simplified synthetic versions were shown to be highly potent against superbug-causing bacteria in test tube experiments, researchers from the Singapore Eye Research Institute then used one of the synthetic versions to successfully treat a bacterial infection in mice.

As well as clearing the infection, the synthesised teixobactin also minimised the infection’s severity.

Dr. Ishwar Singh, a specialist in novel drug design and development from the University of Lincoln’s School of Pharmacy, said: ‘Translating our success with these simplified synthetic versions from test tubes to real cases is a quantum jump in the development of new antibiotics, and brings us closer to realising the therapeutic potential of simplified teixobactins.’

‘When teixobactin was discovered it was groundbreaking in itself as a new antibiotic which kills bacteria without detectable resistance including superbugs such as MRSA, but natural teixobactin was not created for human use.’

‘A significant amount of work remains in the development of teixobactin as a therapeutic antibiotic for human use — we are probably around six to ten years off a drug that doctors can prescribe to patients — but this is a real step in the right direction and now opens the door for improving our in vivo analogues.’