Scientists identify new drug combo that can take out superbugs

Using an antifungal medication in tandem with antibiotics can successfully eliminate multidrug-resistant superbugs, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Microbiology.

For the study, researchers worked to identify compounds that could disrupt gram-negative bacteria, which are resistant to all antibiotics, including those of last resort. Gram-negative bacterial can cause surgical site infections, pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream infections in the healthcare setting. The bacteria are equipped with an impenetrable outer shell that creates a barrier against antibiotics.

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Laboratory testing revealed the antiprotozoal drug pentamidine used in combination with antibiotics can effectively disrupt the cell surface of the bacteria. In mouse trials, the compound displayed efficacy against the gram-negative bacteria Acinetobacter baumannii, which has been identified by the World Health Organization as one of the 12 bacteria classes that pose the greatest threats to human health.

"We looked for compounds that would mess with these bacteria, and I think we're nailing it," said Eric Brown, PhD, senior author of the paper and a professor of biochemistry and biomedical science at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University in Canada. "These pathogens are really hard nuts to crack, but we found a molecule that shreds that shell and allows antibiotics to enter and be effective."

Further study is needed to assess the safety of the using the drug combination in humans.

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