Wed, May 04, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Researchers tout antibiotic that could outsmart superbugs

Staff Writer, with CNA

Researchers at the nation’s top research institution, Academia Sinica, have discovered a new strategy to produce antibiotics that could eventually outsmart superbugs and other microbes that have grown resistant to modern drugs.

The new strategy involves using biosynthetic engineering to alter the chemical structure of one of a class of antibiotics considered to be drugs of the “last resort,” glycopeptide antibiotics, that not only kill bacteria but also harm human cells.

By tinkering with the enzymes involved in the natural production of a glycopeptide antibiotic called A40926, researchers were able to enhance the drug’s capacity to kill bacteria by 10 to 100 times, said Li Tsung-lin (李宗璘), an associate researcher at Academia Sinica’s Genomics Research Center.

“We consider that this approach allows access to new classes of products that would be extremely difficult to obtain by conventional organic synthesis. It will help the development of new drugs in the future,” the academy’s press release quoted Li as saying.

According to the researchers, the biosynthetic engineering process created several new compounds that were chemically very similar to the original antibiotic and had various levels of success in fighting the antibiotic-resistant Enterococcus bacteria in mice.

At the same time, no adverse effects from the new compounds were observed in the tests on mice, researchers said.

The study was published on April 10 in the online US scientific journal Nature Chemical Biology and in the US magazine The Scientist a day later.

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