At the Rockefeller University and Astex Pharmaceuticals, scientists have developed a new antibiotic. This antibiotic has been found to kill a wide range of bacteria including drug-resistant Staphylococcus (MRSA) bacteria that do not respond to traditional drugs, in mice.
The antibiotic, Epimerox, targets weaknesses in bacteria that have long been exploited by viruses that attack them, known as phage, and has even been shown to protect animals from fatal infection by Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax.
Target selection is critical for the development of new antimicrobial agents. To date, most approaches for target selection have focused on the importance of bacterial survival. However, in addition to survival, the Rockefeller scientists believe that molecular targets should be identified by determining which cellular pathways have a low probability for developing resistance.
"For a billion years, phages repeatedly have infected populations of bacteria, and during this period of time they have identified weaknesses in the bacterial armor," says senior author Vincent A. Fischetti, professor and head of the Laboratory of Bacterial Pathogenesis and Immunology.
"We're taking advantage of what phage have 'learned' during this period for us to identify new antibiotic targets that we believe will escape the problem of resistance found for other antibiotics."
The study was recently published in the journal PLOS One.