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Taking on bacterial resistance with ‘resistance breakers’

One interesting area of research to assist with the battle against antibiotic resistant bacteria is with “resistance breakers.” This is a term for compounds that function to boost the effectiveness of existing antibiotics.

In a new development, the company Helperby Therapeutics, a spin-out company founded by Professor Anthony Coates, St George’s, University of London (U.K.), has created a resistance breaker that acts against the superbug MRSA (meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.)

The compound is called HT61. HT61 is a small quinolone-derived compound. It is is active against non-multiplying bacteria. The mechanism of action of the drug is to disrupt the bacterial cell membrane and destruction of the cell wall: essentially punching holes in the membranes of bacterial cells.

The chemical will soon go into clinical trials in India. Here tests are being developed, the BBC reports, under special licence by Cadila Pharmaceuticals, an Indian biotech company. The development is as a topical agent (to be used on the surface of the skin.)

The reason that there is medical interest in resistance blockers is because developing these chemicals is far less costly than seeking to discover entirely new antibiotics. Finding new antibiotics is slow and expensive. In some positive news on this front, a research group from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, have discovered 25 potential new antibiotics from soil samples. One of the compounds, called teixobactin, has been shown to be effective against tuberculosis and MRSA.

In related news, economist Jim O’Neill (formerly with the investment bank Goldman Sachs), is calling on the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies to set up a $2 billion fund to enable research into new antibiotics.

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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