Researchers have found a new test to identify drugs and drug combinations that are potentially useful to treat infections that have developed resistance against different antibiotics.

This research was conducted by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), Clinical Center and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Researchers developed a test that rapidly screens numerous drugs and determines the effectiveness against different types of resistant bacteria.

The new screening method can deal with hospital-borne infections, including emerging infectious diseases.

The research identified 25 drugs from approximately 4,000 that suppressed the growth of two drug-resistant strains of Klebsiella pneumoniae that have become resistant to most major types of antibiotics.

Drug-resistant Klebsiella is the source of many fatal infections in many hospitals across the country.

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NCATS scientist Wei Zheng, and Peter Williamson of NIAID, and Karen Frank of the Clinical Center performed this test.

They also found that three different three-drug combinations were effective against ten common strains of multi-drug-resistant bacteria.

Zheng said: “The results are very promising, and we think that the test can eventually help repurpose approved drugs and other compounds and find clinically relevant drug combinations that can be approved for to use in different ways that we have never used before.

“We’re hoping this approach will lead to approvable, effective ways to combat dangerous infections by drug-resistant bacteria.”

In recent years, drug-resistant and life-threatening bacterial strains are increasing at an alarming rate.

In most of the situations, hospitals do not have the proper infrastructure to test large numbers of drugs.

"We’re hoping this approach will lead to approvable, effective ways to combat dangerous infections by drug-resistant bacteria."

Simple identification of 25 active drugs and compounds will not be enough to assist patients with a drug-resistant infection. Therefore, the researchers decided to identify combinations of drugs that may work against the drug-resistant bacteria.

With this objective, they found four sets of two-drug combinations that suppressed the growth of multidrug-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae.

These antibiotics became active against Klebsiella pneumoniae in the presence of the second drug, which otherwise remained dormant when treated singularly.

The researchers are also evaluating three-drug combinations and the test requires further assessment before its commercialisation.

Image: Colourised scanning-electron micrograph showing carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae interacting with a human white blood cell. Photo: Courtesy of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH.