Antibiotic resistance: Superbugs can be killed by modifying existing drugs, scientists discover
One type of antibiotic is found to kill bacteria by ripping it open by brute force, a previously unknown method that could help make a whole new generation of drugs
In the evolutionary arms-race between deadly bacteria and the antibiotics used by doctors to kill them, the bugs have very definitely been gaining the upper hand in recent years.
But, amid growing reports of bacteria resistant to even the ‘last resort’ antibiotics, comes the news that scientists have found a new way that some existing drugs can still be effective.
Normally antibiotics must bind to a bacteria cell in order to kill it, like putting a key in a locked door.
But the researchers found that one drug exerted such a strong physical force on the bacteria that it “tore the door off its hinges”.
The hunt is now on for other antibiotics with similar properties to create a “new generation” of drugs capable of defeating even the most resistant superbugs.
Last year, growing concern about antibiotic resistance prompted then Prime Minister David Cameron to warn of “catastrophic consequences” if the problem was not dealt with across the world. The UK was instrumental in organising a meeting at the United Nations to discuss the issue.
One of the researchers, Dr Joseph Ndieyira, of University College London, said: “Antibiotics work in different ways, but they all need to bind to bacterial cells in order to kill them.
“Antibiotics have ‘keys’ that fit ‘locks’ on bacterial cell surfaces, allowing them to latch on.
“When a bacterium becomes resistant to a drug, it effectively changes the locks so the key won’t fit any more.
“Incredibly, we found that certain antibiotics can still ‘force’ the lock, allowing them to bind to and kill resistant bacteria because they are able to push hard enough.