Could a New Class of Antibiotics Put an End to the Most Deadly Infections?

When I worked in medical software, multidrug resistant bacteria were always a concern. But new research has created a class of antibiotics that may make even the most drug-resistant infections history:

[They] focused on a metabolic pathway that is essential for most bacteria but absent in humans, making it an ideal target for antibiotic development. This pathway, called methyl-D-erythritol phosphate (MEP) or non-mevalonate pathway, is responsible for biosynthesis of isoprenoids — molecules required for cell survival in most pathogenic bacteria. The lab targeted the IspH enzyme, an essential enzyme in isoprenoid biosynthesis, as a way to block this pathway and kill the microbes. Given the broad presence of IspH in the bacterial world, this approach may target a wide range of bacteria.

I found it fascinating that the scientists used computer modeling to winnow down millions of possible drug candidates to a few compounds most likely to work, then tested them for real. This reminds me of the CAD/CAM software that has revolutionized manufacturing.

These drugs could be used for a wide variety of stubborn infections, per the original paper in Nature:

they kill clinical isolates of several multidrug-resistant bacteria—including those from the genera Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas, Klebsiella, Enterobacter, Vibrio, Shigella, Salmonella, Yersinia, Mycobacterium and Bacillus—yet are relatively non-toxic to mammalian cells.

This research is in its early stages in mice, but the early results are promising. I can only imagine the many more incredible drugs that may come from using this type of computer modeling for drug discovery.

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Photo: “Salmonella species on X.L.D. agar.” by Nathan Reading is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


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