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Modified existing antibiotic could thwart the global threat of antibiotic-resistant infections

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Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in May 2017 announced having discovered a way to structurally modify an antibiotic called vancomycin to make it even more potent — an advance that could mitigate the threat of antibiotic-resistant infections. The World Health Organization and other public-health experts have been warning that antibiotic resistance is a serious global threat.

Previous studies had shown that it is possible to add two modifications to vancomycin to make it even more potent. The new study shows that scientists can now make a third modification that interferes with a bacterium’s cell wall in a new way, with promising results. Combined with the previous modifications, this alteration gives vancomycin a 1,000-fold increase in activity, meaning doctors would need to use less of the antibiotic to fight infection. The discovery makes this version of vancomycin the first antibiotic to have three independent mechanisms of action and organisms cannot simultaneously find a way around three independent mechanisms of action. Even if they found a solution to one of those, the organisms would still be killed by the other two.

Reference: Okano, Isley, and Boger. Peripheral modifications of vancomycin with added synergistic mechanisms of action provide durable and potent antibiotics. PNAS. May 29, 2017

Earlier posts in GBV:
Food-borne bacteria strains resistant to antibiotics
Death of Reno woman from septic shock after all antibiotics fail

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