In the EU alone, each year, antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are responsible for 25,000 deaths. Unless something is done, it is estimated that by 2050 a further 10 million people could die every year due to antibiotic-resistant infections.
However, when it comes to the of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or superbugs, researchers are trumped, particularly when it comes to gram-negative bacteria. In the last 50 years, doctors have not had a new treatment for gram-negative bacteria and no potential drugs have entered clinical trials since 2010.
This is because gram-negative bacteria strains are particularly difficult and dangerous to treat. Their ultra-resistant cell wall prevents drugs from getting into them and to make matters worse, they can also cause additional infections such as pneumonia.
Now, a new study by a team at the University of Sheffield is revealing a compound that is able to effectively kill both gram-positive and gram-negative antibiotic-resistant bacteria by passing through the cell wall of both forms of superbugs and binding to their DNA.
This is particularly impressive as gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria have different cell wall structures. The work may soon pave the way for developing new treatments for all kinds of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including E. Coli.
The research isn't entirely new. The University of Sheffield team had already previously developed compounds that specifically targeted gram-negative bacteria. However, this is the first time they develop this type of broad-spectrum antimicrobial compound that works just as well on both types of bacteria.
“Antimicrobial resistance is an increasing problem with many studies predicting a medical global emergency, so broad-spectrum antimicrobials which work against resistant pathogens are urgently needed," said Professor Jim Thomas, Principal Investigator of the research from the University of Sheffield.
“As the compound is luminescent it glows when exposed to light. This means we were able to follow the uptake and effect on bacteria using advanced microscopy techniques available at STFC's Rutherford Appleton Lab."