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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Anti-Biotic resistance is a major growing problem and WHO “global emergency” but solutions are emerging …

 

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Antibiotic resistance is a major problem that scientists and health organizations are looking to overcome, and so far researchers have developed everything from the equivalent of genetic chainsaws and giant killer viruses to killer nanoparticles to solve it. Even Artificial Intelligence (AI) has designed some new interesting anti-biotics. Now though it looks like we might soon have another weapon against drug resistant bacteria in our arsenal – a new molecule. The molecule is called fabimycin, and further down the line it could be used to fight off some of the most stubborn infections that humans can get.

 

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The new potential treatment targets gram-negative bacteria, a group of hard-to-kill pathogens that are commonly behind infections of the urinary tract, lungs, and even the bloodstream.

Their resilience is due to a protective outer membrane that helps shield the wall from damaging substances like antibiotics. One study at an English hospital found more than a third of individuals with gram-negative bacteria blood infections had died within a year, demonstrating the challenges involved in managing these robust microbes.

“Genomic studies and experiments with permeability-deficient strains have revealed a variety of biological targets that can be engaged to kill gram-negative bacteria,” write the researchers in their published paper.

“However, the formidable outer membrane and promiscuous efflux pumps of these pathogens prevent many candidate antibiotics from reaching these targets.”

 

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Fabimycin overcomes these problems by passing through the outer cell layer, avoiding the pumps that remove foreign material to allow the molecule to accumulate where it can do the most harm. The substance also manages to avoid wiping out too many healthy bacteria, another issue with current treatments.

The team started off with an antibiotic that was known to be effective against gram-positive bacteria and made several structural changes to give the molecule the power to infiltrate gram-negative strains’ powerful defenses.

In tests, fabimycin had an effect on more than 300 types of drug-resistant bacteria. What’s more, in mice models it was shown to reduce levels of harmful bacteria in mice with pneumonia or urinary tract infections to where they were pre-infection.

“Given the promising activity of fabimycin in mouse infection models and encouraging data that fabimycin is dramatically more stable in rat and human plasma, it is reasonable to believe that fabimycin efficacy may improve as it is used to treat infections in higher organisms,” write the researchers.

 

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Uncovering antibiotics that just might work on gram-negative bacteria isn’t something that happens every day, so the biosynthesis of fabimycin is a promising development.

As time goes on, we’re coming to understand more and more about gram-negative bacteria, whether that’s to do with the way it’s put together at a molecular level or the way that it works inside the body. All of that information is helpful in figuring out how we can stop the damage that it does.

There’s still a lot of work to do before fabimycin can actually be incorporated into a drug that’s actually used, but the signs are good. It’s certainly going to be worth keeping an eye on as researchers get it ready for use in human tests.

“The potency of fabimycin, combined with the very low resistance frequency and apparent lack of pre-existing resistance, bodes well for its translation,” write the researchers.

The research has been published in ACS Central Science.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Discovery, RT, Viacom, and WIRED, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Aon, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.

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