How scientists are repurposing old drugs to combat antibiotic resistance

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Scientists may be able to repurpose older drugs, like bithionol, to kill drug-resistant bacteria, suggest the findings of a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Researchers from Providence, R.I.-based Brown University, Atlanta-based Emory University and Boston-based Harvard University conducted the study, which sought to identify an existing drug that could attack a bacteria's membrane to eliminate infections, according to NPR.

They tested more than 80,000 drugs on worms infected with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. While 185 drugs effectively eliminated the bacteria without killing the worms, only a handful of drugs penetrated the bacteria's membrane, including bithionol.

Researchers found the drug could kill MRSA in a petri dish within 24 hours. A low dose of bithionol, combined with the antibiotic gentamicin, could also kill 90 percent of MRSA infections in mice.

"I really think that the future for overcoming antibiotic resistance is these combination therapies where we can use lower doses of the more toxic antibiotics," study author William Wuest, PhD, associate professor of chemistry at Emory, told NPR.

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