“Major development” in battle against superbugs

Scientists have developed an alternative to antibiotics in a discovery that could provide an answer to the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.

A clinical trial showed that the drug was effective at eradicating the MRSA superbug. The discovery is significant as scientists say it is unlikely the infection could develop resistance against the new treatment, 

The drug is already used in a topical skin cream. According to a report in The Times, researchers hope to develop a pill or injectable version of the drug within five years.

Around 5000 deaths a year are caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria. Conventional antibiotics are now losing their effectiveness against infections, leading to an “apocalyptic” scenario where we could see common infections becoming deadly and routine surgery carrying fatal risks.

The last new class of antibiotics was produced over three decades ago and scientists have warned that unless new antibiotics or alternatives to antibiotics are developed, drug-resistance will believe that new approaches are necessary to combat drug-resistance. 

The newly developed drug uses enzymes called endolysins. These fight infections by exclusively targeting the Staphylococcus bacteria responsible for MRSA, leaving other microbes unaffected.

Conventional antibiotics target the inside of bacterial cells, but certain strains of bacteria have now evolved impenetrable membranes which render antibiotics useless. Endolysins on the other hand target the basic building blocks on the outside of bacterial cells that are unlikely to change as infections genetically mutate.

Dr Bjorn Herpers, Clinical Microbiologist at Micreos, the Dutch biotech firm behind the advance, said: “The results demonstrate the potential this technology has to revolutionise the way we treat certain bacterial infections. 

“With the increasing prevalence of multidrug-resistant bacteria, new strategies for the treatment of bacterial infections are needed. As well as being less prone to resistance induction than antibiotics, endolysins destroy only their target bacterial species, leaving the beneficial bacteria alone.”