How 'shape-shifting' antibiotics could combat drug resistance

Observing military tank training prompted John Moses, PhD, a professor and researcher at Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) Laboratory, to develop "shape-shifting" antibiotics in an effort to fight rising instances of drug resistance.

The tanks' quick movements, rotating turrets and flexibility to respond to threats inspired Dr. Moses to search for a similar solution and find a way for antibiotics to respond flexibly to their environments. That's when he discovered bullvalene, a molecule that contains atoms that can swap their positions and change configurations. It led him to combine bullvalene with antibiotics and see if it improved the medicine's bacteria-fighting capabilities.

"He turned to click chemistry, a Nobel Prize-winning class of fast, high-yielding chemical reactions that 'click' molecules together reliably," according to an April 4 news release. "This makes the reactions more efficient for wide-scale use." 

Dr. Moses worked with Tatiana Soares da-Costa, PhD, a researcher from the University of Adelaide in Australia, to test the new combination. They found that "the shape-shifting antibiotic significantly more effective than vancomycin at clearing the deadly infection. Additionally, the bacteria didn't develop resistance to the new antibiotic." 

Their findings could be used to create several new, stronger drugs, according to the news release.

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