Single dose antibiotic clears multi-drug-resistant gonorrhea in mice
Antibiotic resistant bacteria are among the most urgent threats to public health. Now a team of scientists has developed a new single-dose drug that works on a different mechanism to most existing antibiotics, and showed in tests in mice that it can be used to treat multi-drug-resistant gonorrhea.
Antibiotics were one of the most important scientific discoveries of the 20th century, ushering in a new era of safer medical procedures where infections could be easily treated. But unfortunately that time may be coming to an end – improper use and overuse of antibiotics over the decades has created new “superbug” strains of bacteria that are resistant to the drugs. And it’s beginning to look like we’re losing the arms race, as there are now bacteria that can’t be treated with any existing antibiotics.
One of the leading catalysts for bacteria developing resistance is patients not completing their antibiotic treatment regimes. So to remove that barrier, researchers on the new study set out to develop an antibiotic for the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae – which causes gonorrhea – that works after just one dose.
“Developing a single-dose therapy for gonorrhea is incredibly important,” says Ken Keiler, an author of the study. “In some cases, bacteria can develop resistance to a drug when additional doses are skipped, for example when a patient starts to feel better and stops taking antibiotics. With a single-dose therapy, a patient could complete the treatment during a visit to their health provider.”
The new antibiotic works on a different mechanism to most. Known as MBX-4132, the compound binds to the bacteria’s ribosome in a location that no other antibiotic is known to bind to. In doing so, it seems to displace a particular protein that’s important for a process called trans-translation, which bacteria use to fix errors during protein synthesis.
“Because trans-translation only occurs in bacteria and not in humans, we hope that the likelihood of the compound affecting protein synthesis in humans is greatly reduced, a hypothesis strongly supported by the safety and selectivity studies performed by Microbiotix,” says Christine Dunham, an author of the study.
The team had previously identified a compound that uses this mechanism to fight gonorrhea, but it hadn’t translated well to animal tests. So for this new study the researchers adapted the compound to be more stable in animals.
And tests in mice proved promising. The team administered just one dose of the compound to mice infected with the virulent WHO-X strain of gonorrhea, and found that within six days the infection was completely cleared in 80 percent of the mice. The other 20 percent, meanwhile, still saw a major reduction in their bacterial load.
New antibiotics are a crucial development to keep us ahead in the war against superbugs. The team says that this type of compound could work against a range of other bacteria as well, such as tuberculosis and golden staph.
The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.
Source: Pennsylvania State University