The incidence of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections is on the rise and medical professionals have been running out of ways to treat them. The treatment of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has been problematic to medical professionals since it is, as the name implies, resistant to methicillin. Methicillin is related to penicillin but is semisynthetic and was once used against staphylococci resistant to penicillin. However, staphylococcus is now rarely treated with methicillin as it has developed resistance to the drug. These antibiotic-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus are now known as MRSA. Because MRSA is resistant to many antibiotics, not just methicillin, it can become life-threatening. A research team has reported that they have discovered a new class of antibiotics capable of fighting MRSA.
A chemist team from the University of Notre Dame, have unearthed this new oxadiazole class of antibiotics through computer screening. Over 1.2 million compounds were screened before oxadiazoles were found. Not only can oxadiazoles combat MRSA but this new class of antibiotics is important in another way as well. They are able to be taken orally and remain effective against MRSA. Currently there are only three drugs available that are effective against MRSA, and only one of them may be taken orally. While these three drugs continue to be able to fight MRSA, the staph infection has already shown resistance to each of the three.
MRSA mostly appears as a skin infection which can produce boils, abscesses, stys, carbuncles, blisters, impetigo, and rashes. The infection becomes more problematic when it spreads to other organs. When the antibiotic resistant bacteria spread to internal organs, the results can be life-threatening. Each year in just the United States, over 278,000 people are hospitalized for MRSA and approximately 19,000 die. Doctors and medical researchers alike have been battling this global health issue since the 1960s. The possibility that an MRSA fighting antibiotic has been discovered is news the medical community has anticipated hearing.
There are other drug resistant bacteria that threaten the health of the public such as E. coli and gonorrhea. Recent news has seen warnings from the World Health Organization (WHO) on the current status of infection-resistant antibiotics. WHO indicates that the world could be heading toward an era in which there will be no effective cure for many common infections. In this scenario, the world will revert to a time when common infections may kill patients who are currently being saved by the intervention of antibiotics. The overuse of the current antibiotics is creating strains that are becoming resistant to the cures available.
The new class of antibiotic discovered, oxadiazole, works by inhibiting PBP2a which is a protein that binds penicillin. It also interferes with the biosynthesis of the cell wall which allows MRSA to resist the drugs. While this resistance is cellular based, some other methods of resistance occur from patients or doctors. Some of the drug resistance comes from overprescribing antibiotics. Some of the resistance comes from the patient terminating treatment before finishing the full dose prescribed because they feel better. Some more drug resistance stems from the fact that the more each bacterium is exposed to each antibiotic, the more chance there will be for the bacteria to develop immunity.
In the hope of preventing an infection from becoming resistant to all types of antibiotics, researchers have been looking for a solution for many years. Now that they have located this new class of antibiotic, oxadiazoles, they are hopeful that they will have discovered an MSRA fighting antibiotic. At this time, the treatment has been used, with promising results, in mouse models.
By Dee Mueller