Scientists pit carbon monoxide against gonorrhea to create new antibiotic

Researchers from the University of York in the United Kingdom created a potential new antibiotic to treat gonorrhea by harnessing the power of carbon monoxide-releasing molecules, according to a new study published in MedChemComm.

The news comes as gonorrhea rates have reached record highs in the United States and clusters of antibiotic resistant gonorrhea infections have been detected globally.

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To create the new antibiotic candidate, researchers built on growing evidence that carbon monoxide enhances antibiotic action. They found Neisseria gonorrhoeae are more sensitive to carbon monoxide toxicity than other bacterial pathogens. A new antibiotic medication created with carbon monoxide-producing molecules could be used to bind to the bacteria and essentially suffocate it.

"The carbon monoxide molecule targets the engine room, stopping the bacteria from respiring. Gonorrhea only has one enzyme that needs inhibiting and then it can't respire oxygen and it dies," said Ian Fairlamb, PhD, a professor in the chemistry department. "We are looking at a molecule that can be released in a safe and controlled way to where it is needed ... it isn't the final drug yet but it is pretty close to it."

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