Researchers have discovered a new class of antibiotic that could become critical in the fight against antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. The multi-drug resistant strain of the sexually transmitted infection is causing serious concern within the medical world and it's hoped that this new class of compounds could help halt its spread.
The team stress that it is still early days, but that the experiments carried out in the lab show promise. In the latest study, published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, they report that the new antibiotic successfully killed off 146 out of 149 samples of drug-resistant gonorrhea. Known as closthioamide, the next challenge will be to test the antibiotic on live animals and humans.
“The results of our initial laboratory studies show that closthioamide has the potential to combat N. gonorrhoeae,” explains lead author Victoria Miari in a statement. “Further research is needed, but its potential to successfully tackle this infection, as well as other bacteria, cannot be underestimated.”
The world is on the brink of an antibiotic crisis, and that is not an exaggeration. The World Health Organization has called antibiotic resistance one of the “biggest threats to global health”, with many warning that as the bacteria continuously evolve to overcome our medicine, we cannot keep up the same pace in producing new drugs to replace them. We are now at a critical point.
“Antibiotic resistance, combined with the reduction of drug development, is one of the biggest health issues facing the world today,” says Miari. “The problem threatens to render many human and animal infections untreatable, including gonorrhoea.”
The new antibiotic has in fact been known to scientists since 2010, though it now shows promise in potentially treating resistant gonorrhea. Developing new antibiotics is a tricky and time-consuming business. There are no doubt many undiscovered compounds that could be used, but they are notoriously difficult to find and test.
For example, while clothioamide is naturally produced by the anaerobic bacteria Clostridium cellulolyticum, the microorganism produces the substance in such minuscule amounts that in order to be able to get enough of it for tests, the researchers needed to understand how it is produced and then mimic this process in the laboratory.