Researchers from the Notre Dame University have developed unusual antibiotics that have the potential to be effective against the super bugs. The research findings were presented at the 230th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
The new antibiotics are synthetic forms of cephalosporin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic closely related to penicillin. They appear to kill bacteria by masquerading as components of the bacterial cell wall in order to deactivate an enzyme that functions as a key bacterial defense mechanism, the researchers say. In preliminary lab tests, the new antibiotics — the first to exhibit this mimicry mechanism — were effective against vancomycin-resistant MRSA, a rare but extremely deadly staph strain for which treatment options are extremely limited, they say.
Besides fighting staph bacteria, the compounds have the potential to work against a wide range of other types of infectious bacterial strains that appear in health-care and community settings, he says. At least one of the cephalosporin compounds identified has entered Phase I clinical trials (human studies), but results are not yet available.
Researchers had recently discovered, in a study published in the February issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, that the enzyme interacts with certain components of the bacterial cell wall and that targeting these components might deactivate the enzyme, making the bacteria vulnerable to attack. Subsequently, the group identified a set of three novel cephalosporin antibiotics that appear to interact with the enzyme and also contain protein components that are similar to those of the bacterial cell wall.
More studies are needed to verify the details of this unique mechanism and to determine whether other antibiotics use this mechanism. So far, only three antibiotics — all of them cephalosporin derivatives — appear to function by this mimicry mechanism.