Researchers leverage forgotten antibiotic in battle against superbugs

A largely ignored antibiotic discovered 40 years ago could provide new treatments for infections with drug-resistant bacteria, according to a study published in the journal Cell Chemical Biology.


Researchers first discovered the antibiotic octapeptin in the late 1970s. However, octapeptin was not selected for drug development at the time due to a surplus of available antibiotics.

To assess the potential efficacy of octapeptin in treating infections with gram-negative bacteria, researchers synthesized the antibiotic and used it to treat mice infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa resistant to the last-resort antibiotic colistin. Octapeptin proved more effective than colistin against the drug-resistant bacteria and less toxic to the kidneys.

"The emergence of resistance to meropenem, and now colistin, the antibiotic of last resort, means multidrug- and extensively drug-resistant bacteria are now a reality confronting clinicians," said Matt Cooper, PhD, director of University of Queensland Institute for Molecular Bioscience's Centre for Superbug Solutions in Australia and one of the study's authors. "Octapeptin showed superior antimicrobial activity to colistin against extensively resistant Gram-negative bacteria in early pre-clinical testing."

Dr. Cooper said the study's findings could be used as a foundation for the development of new antibiotic medications.

More articles on infection control: 
US areas hit by Zika see 21% jump in birth defects 
WHO: 5 most common antibiotic-resistant infections 
2 key risk factors for pediatric Carbapenem-resistant gram-negative infections

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