Back in 2015, a team of scientists discovered an exciting new antibiotic called teixobactin. Now an international team of researchers has, for the first time, successfully synthesized the compound and used it to treat a bacterial infection in mice. This is an important milestone in the quest to develop a new antibiotic in the war against antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

"When teixobactin was discovered it was groundbreaking in itself as a new antibiotic which kills bacteria without detectable resistance including superbugs such as MRSA, but natural teixobactin was not created for human use," explains Ishwar Singh, one of the scientists involved in the new research.

Late last year, a University of Lincoln team revealed it had successfully developed a synthesized version of teixobactin, with an easier synthesis process speeding up a single coupling step from 30 hours to just 10 minutes. At the time, the potency of the new synthesized drug was only demonstrated in vitro.

Now researchers from the Singapore Eye Research Institute have shown the synthetic version of the drug can successfully kill Staphylococcus aureus keratitis in live mouse models. The drug also reduced the severity of the infection in the animals, which was unexpected as the conventional clinically used alternative, moxifloxacin, does not display that extra effect.

"Translating our success with these simplified synthetic versions from test tubes to real cases is a quantum jump in the development of new antibiotics, and brings us closer to realizing the therapeutic potential of simplified teixobactins," says Singh.

Teixobactins represent an exciting new class of antibiotics, the first novel antibiotic isolated from bacteria in over 30 years. Since its 2015 discovery another new family of antibiotics called malacidins were revealed in early 2018. This discovery is still in its early stages, and not nearly as developed as the latest research on teixobactin, which is still are a few years away from reaching our medical clinics.

"A significant amount of work remains in the development of teixobactin as a therapeutic antibiotic for human use – we are probably around six to 10 years off a drug that doctors can prescribe to patients – but this is a real step in the right direction and now opens the door for improving our in vivo analogs," says Singh.

The new research was published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.