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May 27, 2024

New antibiotic offers hope against drug-resistant superbugs

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Jan 8, 2024

Researchers have discovered a new class of antibiotic that shows promise for combating deadly drug-resistant bacteria. The compound, named zosurabalpin, works in an entirely different way than existing antibiotics and could help fight infections that have become impervious to most available treatments.

Groundbreaking discovery detailed in new studies

Details on zosurabalpin were published this week in two studies in the journal Nature. The research outlines how the antibiotic was identified using artificial intelligence and demonstrates its ability to kill several species of drug-resistant bacteria in lab tests.

The studies show zosurabalpin targets bacteria in a novel way – by inhibiting the function of their cell membranes. This membrane-disrupting mechanism makes it effective against common disease-causing bacteria that have evolved resistance against other antibiotic classes in use today.

“This really is a revolutionary discovery that could truly change the landscape when it comes to treating bacterial infections,” said Dr. Clyde Simmons of Boston Medical Center, who was not involved in the research.

Promising activity seen against WHO Priority 1 pathogens

Importantly, zosurabalpin displayed potent activity against three out of four bacteria on the World Health Organization’s Priority 1 list of concerning drug-resistant pathogens:

Pathogen Resistance Issues
Acinetobacter baumannii Resistant to carbapenems and colistin
Pseudomonas aeruginosa Resistant to nearly all available antibiotics
Enterobacteriaceae Resistant to carbapenems and last-resort drugs

“The fact that this compound works against some of our most problematic drug-resistant infections is remarkable,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Anna Hernandez. “We desperately need new solutions, and this is perhaps the most exciting antibiotic discovery we’ve had in decades.”

Years of research led to chance AI-assisted breakthrough

The antibiotic’s discovery traces back over 15 years to research led by Professor Kim Lewis at Northeastern University. Lewis’ team screened over 2,500 soil compounds for antibiotic activity without success.

The breakthrough came when they turned to artificial intelligence algorithms developed at MIT. By analyzing chemical features of antibiotics, the AI helped identify 24 new compounds for testing. One compound with a macrocyclic peptide structure showed exceptional antimicrobial effects.

“We’ve screened over 100,000 bacteria and this compound works against all that we’ve tested – it really is something new,” Lewis stated. His team named the antibiotic zosurabalpin after words meaning “unheard of” in the Basque language.

Fast track testing to gauge effectiveness against infections

With the initial lab results generating excitement, the research team is accelerating testing of zosurabalpin. They plan to study whether the drug can treat systemic infections in animals over the next six months.

Lewis’ team has also partnered with scientists at Roche Pharmaceuticals to synthesize larger quantities of the compound. This will enable wider testing and development if the antibiotic continues to show promise.

“Everything looks very positive so far, but many hurdles remain before we have a drug ready for human use,” Lewis cautioned. “We’re working with urgency given the public health need, but careful stepwise evaluations are vital to ensure both safety and efficacy.”

Caution against overuse if antibiotic approved

Public health experts applauded the discovery but stressed the need to avoid overuse of zosurabalpin if approved. Many existing antibiotics have quickly become ineffective after resistance developed due to unchecked usage.

“This underscores the importance of stewarding antibiotics responsibly,” the Infectious Disease Society of America said in a statement. They advised restricting the drug’s use to cases unresponsive to other antibiotics if it reaches market.

Policymakers also called for incentives improving the commercial viability of new, last-resort antibiotics. They want to avoid companies focusing narrowly on medications that offer the highest profits.

“We need measures ensuring critical antibiotics get developed while also being conserved once available,” the WHO said. “Otherwise history will simply repeat itself.”

This breaking news story will be updated as additional details emerge on the development and testing of this promising new antibiotic compound.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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