Via The Independent: A valuable weapon in war against drug-resistant superbugs: Antibiotic offers hope. Excerpt:
A new kind of antibiotic that causes microbes to digest themselves has been developed by scientists who believe it could become a valuable weapon in the war against drug-resistant “superbugs”.
Laboratory tests show that the drug is effective against persistent strains of the Staphylococcus bacterium and is able to cure laboratory mice of the same kind of chronic bacterial infections that have killed hospital patients.
Kim Lewis of Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, said that the drug, called acyldepsipeptide (ADEP4), works by activating an enzyme within the dormant “persister” cells of the bacteria, which causes these hardened microbial cells to self-digest.
“Persister cells don’t grow. They shut down their metabolism and in order for antibiotics to work against bacteria, the microbes must grow. ADEP4 essentially forces the cells to self-digest. The compound has an ability to sterilise an infection,” Dr Lewis said.
ADEP4 activates a protease enzyme that breaks down proteins within bacteria. However, resistance soon develops against the drug, which is why it was abandoned by the drug industry in the 1980s as a possible antibiotic, he said.
The study, published in the journal Nature, demonstrated however that when ADEP4 is used in conjunction with a conventional antibiotic, such as rifampicin, it is very effective at ridding an infection of the persister cells that are often left untouched by the treatment.