The Herman Trend Alert
April 11, 2018
Superdrugs for Superbugs
Amid all the real and fake news in the United States, we believe that some important discoveries have fallen through the cracks. This landmark discovery is clearly one of them. We have written often of superbugs and their power to affect humankind. We are therefore pleased to share this breakthrough to provide a more positive note on society's battle against ever-more-virulent strains of superbugs.
Actually, the second breakthrough
It is also a promising sign that this new class follows the 2015 discovery of teixobactin. Prior to that discovery, there had been a 30-year drought, that had prompted dire warnings of a "post-antibiotic apocalypse" as the superbugs continued to proliferate.
A bit of background on superbugs
A team of researchers from the University of East Anglia recently investigated a class of bacteria known as "Gram-Negative". These bacterial species are responsible for a variety of insidious infections including pneumonia, meningitis, bloodstream infections, and wound infections---the most prevalent of which is MRSA. What makes them so resistant to numerous antibiotics is their unique outer membrane---particularly difficult for drugs to permeate.
Discovered in strange place
Sifting through thousands of soil samples, Dr. Sean Brady and his laboratory at Rockefeller University in New York, found a new class of antibiotics they call "malacidins". Recent technological advances have made it easier to rapidly review the DNA of different soil organisms, which were hard to grow in a petri dish. Interestingly, soil samples are a great place to find new organisms because there, bacteria naturally compete for scarce resources and use a range of unusual chemical compounds to destroy each other.
How malacidins work
Malacidins work by attacking an essential step in bacterial growth, interfering with a major building block that the bacteria use to build and repair that resistant outer membrane. MRSA and other superbugs have not yet generated resistance to the chemical. More specifically, researchers have identified the particular building blocks the bacteria use to reinforce that previously impervious outer membrane. When those building blocks are absent, the bacteria cannot survive.
The great news in this breakthrough
The wonderful information update here is that this breakthrough is only the beginning of an entire new class of effective antibiotics---and these compounds hold great promise that we can stay ahead of the superbug mutations. Expect to see Big Pharma coming to market with these superdrugs in the coming months and years.
Special thanks to IFL Science! for decoding the journal Nature article for us.
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