Potential New Weapon in the Fight Against Drug-Resistant Bacteria

A team of researchers returned to the soil in a quest to find a new antibiotic, soil being the origin of many of the antibiotics currently in use. What they’ve discovered is an antibiotic previously unknown that, at least in mice, is able to combat many drug-resistant bacteria successfully.

The newly-discovered antibiotic is pseudouridimycin, or PUM, was found in a soil sample taken in Italy. PUM acts by inhibiting an enzyme necessary for bacteria to reproduce by affecting its ability to to make RNA molecules, essential for cell survival.

Researchers have already tested PUM in lab mice where the antibiotic was found to have killed 20 types of bacteria, many of those related to staph and strep infections. Along with these promising results, PUM appears to be harmless to humans, although clinical testing in human trials will better address that concern.

Related Reading: An All Antibiotic Resistant Superbug Makes First Appearance in U.S.

Don’t look for pseudouridimycin to appear in prescriptions any time soon, though. Scientists are yet in the early stages of the research needed to first allow clinical trials in humans, clinical trials that will then require years of study to determine the antibiotic’s efficacy and safety. If the results of eventual human trials are positive, PUM could be available for use in about 10 years.

What Makes Pseudouridimycin a Promising Threat to “Superbugs”?

Pseudouridimycin is a nucleoside-analog inhibitor, which to most of us means little, but research co-leader, Stefano Donadio, CEO of NAICONS Srl explains it in terms understandable to lay people:

“Nucleoside-analog inhibitors that selectively inhibit viral nucleotide polymerases have had transformative impact on the treatment of HIV-AIDS and hepatitis C. The anti-AIDS drugs Zidovudine, Videx, Zalcitabine, Lamivudine, and Viread are nucleoside-analog inhibitors, and the anti hepatitis-C drugs Solvadi and Harvoni are nucleoside-analog inhibitors.”

PUM is similar to Rifampin, an antibiotic currently in use that inhibits the same enzyme as does PUM. The two antibiotics could be used together for an additive effect in fighting infections. The rate at which bacteria develop resistance to the effects of pseudouridimycin is one-tenth that of rifampin, an important factor to the development of resistance to the antibiotic’s effects by bacteria.

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