First new antibiotic in 30 years discovered in major breakthrough

Jan 22, 2015

Photo: Alamy

By Sarah Knapton

The first new antibiotic to be discovered in nearly 30 years has been hailed as a ‘paradigm shift’ in the fight against the growing resistance to drugs.

Teixobactin has been found to treat many common bacterial infections such as tuberculosis, septicaemia and C. diff, and could be available within five years.

But more importantly it could pave the way for a new generation of antibiotics because of the way it was discovered.

Scientists have always believed that the soil was teeming with new and potent antibiotics because bacteria have developed novel ways to fight off other microbes.

But 99 per cent of microbes will not grow in laboratory conditions leaving researchers frustrated that they could not get to the life-saving natural drugs.

Now a team from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, have discovered a way of using an electronic chip to grow the microbes in the soil and then isolate their antibiotic chemical compounds.


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20 comments on “First new antibiotic in 30 years discovered in major breakthrough

  • Yay!!! indeed, however it is apparently effective only against gram positive bacteria, which does of course include a lot of the very nasty infectious bacteria, including tubercolosis.



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  • I don’t think most people appreciate just how close we a coming to going back to a phase where anti-biotics just don’t work and exactly what that means. Often it meant amputation of the infected limb or removal of large amounts of bowel (depending on the nature of the infection). Let’s hope people this time around can be made to see the benefit and true cost of anti-biotic, no farmer for example should be allowed to administer antibiotics to cattle unless the individual animal has an infection. Unfortunately people may just come to the conclusion that ‘scientists will find a way’ indeed they have, this time and at what cost?



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  • This is wonderful news. We are going to have to guard this Teixobactin carefully to make sure it is not overused or improperly used so the bugs become immune to it. We ruined so many other drugs by overprescribing and patients stopping treatment too early. About all we have left in vancomycin which requires an IV.

    The article did not explain why growing bacteria is so difficult. What is it about soil that is so hard to reproduce in the lab. How do electronic chips do it?

    I looked for a while as if big pharma was not interested at all in antibiotics. They were not profitable enough. I hope this discovery excites investors.

    This should bring on a whole new wave of drugs.

    The next generation after that will come by analysing the molecular structures and habits of the bacteria and constructing very specific drugs to interfere, maybe even constructed for a particular patient with a particular strain to avoid triggering allergies.



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  • In the first report that I read on this, because of the manner in which it works, it was considered highly unlikely that gram positive bacteria would in fact be able to mutate in any way that would diminish its effectiveness.

    Which does not of course negate your general point, considering that at the moment something like 80% of anti-biotics manufactured in the US of A, are fed to livestock.



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  • In light of the fact that Fleming warned against over use of his serendipitous discovery from the very start, I decided to let my xmas/new year gastroenteritis treat run its course, but after two weeks it became apparent that it wasn’t going to clear up by itself, it was going to have to be cleared up.

    So, having lost a stone from what had been my ideal weight, I presented to my GP again, and after a cursory examination, and without a word being spoken, a course of antibiotics was prescribed.

    But even at that late stage, it wasn’t possible to say for certain that the infection was not viral.

    However, only a couple of hours after having taken the first of a ten dose course of antibiotic tablets the effect was swift and dramatic.

    So all the indicators suggest that the infection was bacterial and not viral.

    But of course my antibodies may have finally got their act together.

    It’s impossible to tell.

    What I do know is that I’ve never asked for antibiotics and my doctor would never employ them other than as a last resort.



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  • 8
    Cairsley says:

    I have to admit, Stafford, that I would find it somewhat worrying if my doctor prescribed me anything without saying a word to me. In fact I would not leave his office until he had given me an account of his decision, if only to let me know what was going on with my own body. It is not improper to ask your doctor for an explanation.

    But good to know that your doctor hit the mark with his prescription.



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  • I didn’t explain myself very well Cairsley; the Doctor and I discussed things after she’d prescribed the medicine, because I wanted verification that my self diagnosis was correct, so I was well aware of what was happening.

    But your point was well made.



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  • ” Teixobactin inhibits cell wall synthesis by binding to a highly conserved motif of lipid II (precursor of peptidoglycan) ” ( from the abstract, link provided by Jos )

    Not sure that this would not also attack the outer wall of Gram negative bacteria as peptidoglycan is the main component of both type bacterial walls. Interfere with the precursor and interfere with the vital wall material of all bacteria.

    Of course Gram negative bacteria have two walls!



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  • 16
    Lorenzo says:

    I don’t think most people appreciate just how close we a coming to going back to a phase where anti-biotics just don’t work and exactly what that means.

    Oh yes. And among those “most people” I’d include a significant amount of medical doctors.



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  • 17
    Lorenzo says:

    Exactly. That’s why it’s bloody dangerous for all the rest of us if someone thinks she or he could cure a cold with antibiotics. I mean, every time someone does that everybody loses: the one with the cold, because of the additional strain on liver and kidneys for no gain whatsoever, and the rest of humanity, because bacteria that happen to be caught in the heat get selected for resistance to that antibiotic.



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  • Thanks for posting a link to the study. My first reaction to the article above was “what about resistance? Shouldn’t we be focusing on different approaches to bacterial diseases, like genetics or the use of phages?” It looks like this antibiotic attacks such a large part of the bacterial structure (one that is genetically conserved and not likely to mutate) that resistance would be unlikely to develop, at least not quickly. Great hope for people like my husband, who is prone to dangerous staph and strep skin infections (cellulitis) that could quickly become necrotizing and deadly. Clindamycin and vancomycin have so far been successful in fighting off his occasional infections, but I dread the day when they don’t!

    However, powerful antibiotics like clindamycin and vancomycin have devastating side effects like necrotizing enterocolitis and “red man” syndrome. They kill off our “good” intestinal bacteria as well as pathogens. What kind of side effects will this new antibiotic have, and will the risks outweigh the benefits?



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  • Some otherwise very effective antibiotics, such as amikacin and chloramphenicol, are rarely used because their side effects are so severe and potentially deadly. There’s a fine line between effectiveness and uselessness. It doesn’t do any good to kill off bacterial pathogens if you end up irreversibly damaging or killing the patient.



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  • JC Sheepdog Jan 22, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    Which does not of course negate your general point, considering that at the moment something like 80% of anti-biotics manufactured in the US of A, are fed to livestock.

    Quite!!

    http://www.nrdc.org/food/saving-antibiotics.asp
    Did you know that 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are for use on livestock and poultry, not humans? The majority aren’t even given to animals that are sick. Instead, it’s normal practice in the meat industry to mix these drugs with livestock food and water day after day as a substitute for healthier living conditions and to make chickens, pigs, and cows grow faster.

    The problem with feeding antibiotics to animals that are not sick is that it kills off weak bacteria and creates the perfect environment for antibiotic-resistant bacteria to multiply and thrive. When the meat industry routinely misuses and overuses antibiotics in this way, it threatens public health when essential drugs no longer work to treat infections. This makes us all less safe.



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