New Class of Drugs May Fight Superbugs

  • The full work is published in  the scientific article published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.
  • The group of scientists have found that the tetracenomycin molecule attaches to the ribosome of the bacterium and blocks its work.
  • Tetracenomycin alone can't be used due to the side effects, but a drug based on such finding can.

Scientists from the USA, Russia, and Germany made a great discovery that antibiotic-resistant pathogens are defenseless against a long-known substance. This discovery may become the basis for the development of new effective drugs. There is a need for a new class of drugs, since antibiotic resistance is on the rise.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR or AR) is the ability of a microbe to resist the effects of medication that once could successfully treat the microbe. Antimicrobial resistance is increasing globally because of greater access to antibiotic drugs in developing countries.

Antibiotics are the only drugs we have on this planet to protect humans from bacterial infections. These substances kill microbes by blocking vital processes in the bacterial cell, such as protein or DNA synthesis. However, microorganisms quickly mutate, becoming resistant to drugs.

This is caused thanks in large part to the widespread use and overuse of antibiotics in the food industry and agriculture, as well as their uncontrolled use in self-treatment. The antibiotics are overprescribed. As an aside, for humanity, it would be better to go to a plant-based diet.

It is especially unpleasant that the same set of acquired mutations can lead the pathogen out of the attack of many drugs with a similar mechanism of action at once. This phenomenon is called cross-resistance. This is how superbugs arise, which are almost invulnerable to existing drugs.

According to forecasts, if the situation is not reversed, such infections will kill ten million people a year in the coming decades. This is more than are currently dying from cancer, which is one of the main causes of death in developed countries. The problem is much more serious than even the Coronavirus pandemic that already claimed over 500,000 lives around the world.

Therefore, it is literally vital to create new antibiotics for our survival. Bacteria have been on earth far earlier than man. The new class of drugs needs to differ form the existing drug classes.

The full work is published in  the scientific article published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology by biochemists. The scientists of this project studied the effect of tetracenomycin. The antibacterial properties of this compound have been known for more than 40 years, but the underlying biochemical mechanism has remained unclear.

Nature Chemical Biology is a monthly, peer-reviewed, scientific journal, which is published by Nature Publishing Group. It was first published in June 2005. The publishing focus of Nature Chemical Biology is a forum for original research and commentary in Chemical-biology.

Furthermore, the group of scientists have found that the tetracenomycin molecule attaches to the ribosome of the bacterium and blocks its work.

Ribosomes are macromolecular machines, found within all living cells, that perform biological protein synthesis. Ribosomes link amino acids together in the order specified by the codons of messenger RNA molecules to form polypeptide chains.

Moroever, the process is not new. Nevertheless, it is crucial that tetracenomycin attaches to a section (site) of the ribosome that is inaccessible to existing drugs. This means that mutations acquired by microbes to protect against other antibiotics will leave them defenseless against the new substance. As study co-author Ilya Osterman from Lomonosov Moscow State University and the SKOLKOVO Institute of technology emphasizes:

“The most interesting point: we found a new site of antibiotic binding in the ribosome. Therefore, mutations in different parts of the ribosome that give resistance to other antibiotics do not affect the binding of tetracenomycin, that is, there is no cross-resistance. The discovery of a new binding site opens the way to modification and improvement of the antibiotic.”

It is important to note that tetracenomycin alone can’t be used due to the side effects, but a drug based on such finding can. Hopefully the new class of drugs will be developed soon.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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