New antibiotic targets drug-resistant bacteria

New antibiotic targets immutable bacterial structure.


Researchers have achieved a significant breakthrough in the ongoing battle against antibiotic-resistant bacteria by decoding a novel antibiotic. This discovery promises to revolutionize the field of infection control. It offers renewed hope in the fight against drug-resistant pathogens.

Bacteria that make us sick are getting stronger and can resist the medicines we use to treat them. It means these medicines might not work anymore. Researchers from countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and the USA have found a new medication to fight these potent bacteria.

This antibiotic known as clovibactin, is derived from a bacterium found in soil of North Carolina. It’s good at breaking down the outer wall of bacteria, even the ones that are tough to kill. Researchers discovered how this new antibiotic works and shared their findings in a famous science journal called “Cell.”

The Researcher leading this research, Prof. Dr. Tanja Schneider from the University of Bonn, said “we need new antibiotics because the ones we have are not working as well anymore.” Only a few new antibiotics have been discovered in the past years.

The bacterium Eleftheria terrae subspecies makes clovibactin to protect itself from other bacteria. Clovibactin attacks the outer wall of harmful bacteria uniquely, stopping them from growing and killing them.

This discovery is important because it can help us fight the potent bacteria that cause infections. It’s like finding a new tool to fight against these rigid germs.

Researchers from different fields and countries joined forces to figure out how this works. One team, led by Prof. Kim Lewis from Northeastern University in the USA and a company called NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals, discovered antibiotic called clovibactin. They used a unique device called iCHip that lets them grow bacteria in labs, even ones that were hard to grow. It is essential for making new antibiotics.

The president of NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals, Dallas Hughes, explained that this discovery shows that iCHip technology is suitable for finding new medicines from bacteria we couldn’t grow before. They discovered that clovibactin is good at fighting a wide range of bacteria and worked well in mice tests.

Another group of researchers led by Tanja Schneider found out how clovibactin works. They saw that clovibactin attaches very carefully to specific parts of the bacterial cell wall. A team led by Prof. Markus Weingarth from Utrecht University in the Netherlands used a special method called solid-state NMR spectroscopy to figure out how clovibactin interacts with a part of bacteria called lipid II. They did this under conditions similar to those inside the bacterial cell. They found that clovibactin holds a part of the target tightly, like a cage. It is why it’s called “Clovibactin,” which comes from the Greek word “Klouvi,” meaning cage.

Clovibactin mainly works on certain types of bacteria called gram-positive bacteria. These include tough bacteria found in hospitals like MRSA and the ones causing widespread tuberculosis that affects many people worldwide. The good thing is that these bacteria might not become resistant to clovibactin quickly. It is because clovibactin affects a part of the bacteria that’s hard for them to change, making them vulnerable.

But clovibactin doesn’t stop there. After sticking to the bacteria, it forms unique structures that tightly wrap around and damage them even more. When bacteria encounter clovibactin, they also release enzymes that break down their protective layer. This combination of actions makes it hard for the bacteria to become resistant to clovibactin. It shows much potential in different ways bacteria can create new antibiotics.

Prof. Markus Weingarth emphasizes that this discovery would only have happened with different experts working together. The team now wants to make clovibactin even better at fighting bacteria. But it will take a while before this new antibiotic can be used widely.

Journal Reference:

  1. Rhythm Shukla, Aaron J. Peoples et al., An antibiotic from an uncultured bacterium binds to an immutable target. Cell. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2023.07.038.
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