As reported in Medical Xpress, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have listed antibiotic resistance as one of the most pressing health challenges of our time. Infection treatment has been revolutionized for our generation by novel antibiotics. However, the bacteria evolve, growing resistance in response to our antibiotics created to defeat it. This makes humans once again subject to even fiercer bacteria, called “superbugs” because of their resistance to traditional antibiotics.
At the University of Pittsburgh, researchers have sparked excitement and hope with their creation of a potential antibiotic that both is effective against a very dangerous drug-resistant bacteria and has been tinkered with so it as not as toxic as it had previously been.
The new antibiotic, intended to treat lung infections, is a synthetic and more efficient version of the natural defense against infection, known as antimicrobial peptides. These synthetic “eCAP”s are administered to the patient via the windpipe to get to the lungs. This experimental drug has thus far proven to better combat the drug-resistant bacteria in comparison to previous options. It additionally was not accompanied by toxic side effects as it had before. The lead author of the study Dr. Peter Di said,
“We were so surprised and happy. At first, we were skeptical and repeated the experiment—but yes, it was 20 times less toxic toward red blood cells in our lab. And when we saw similar results in mice, we were really excited.”
Reducing Toxicity, Maintaining Stability
The experimenters had tried to make this synthetic eCAP more stable, meaning it would stay in the body longer and destroy the last lingering bacteria. Higher stability however often makes the drug more toxic because the body is exposed to it more. They were pleased to find at least in the lab, their experimental drug was much less toxic than the normal eCAP that they were using as their base, a drug which is in clinical trials now to treat infections related to knee and hip replacements. The tests moved on to using mice as subjects, which confirmed that even at very high doses, the drug was not toxic enough to cause fatalities.
The study has earned recognition due to their success in making a new version of a drug with greatly reduced toxicity while maintaining the drugs stability and functionality in fighting the drug-resistant infections. While the researchers note that the drug needs further experimentation and trials before it can be approved as a treatment option, it seems well suited to go onto clinical trials. Were the drug to prove effective, it is of great interest to patients with cystic fibrosis or other rare diseases in which serious infections are a major risk.