Biologists at the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) have developed a new procedure that can identify and characterise antibiotics.
The innovation could enable the detection of new antibiotics to treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE) and methicillin-resistant staphlyococcus aureus (MRSA) .
In the UC San Diego team’s findings, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, researchers described their creation of a method of performing bacterial cell ‘autopsies’.
UC San Diego professor of biology Joseph Pogliano said: "This will provide a powerful new tool for identifying compounds that kill bacteria and determining how they work.
"Some bacteria have evolved resistance to every known class of antibiotic and, when these multi-drug resistant bacteria cause an infection, they are nearly impossible to treat. There is an urgent need for new antibiotics capable of treating infections caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria."
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report in March 2013 on the antibiotic-resistant strains of CRE, which they discovered caused infections in patients in around 200 hospitals in the US alone.
Due to the lack of antibiotics on the market available to effectively treat antibiotic-resistant infections, CRE is fatal in around half of patients who get infected.
UC San Diego professor of molecular biology and co-author of the paper Kit Pogliano said: "It’s easy to identify thousands of molecules capable of killing bacteria.
"The hard part is picking out the winners from the losers, and choosing molecules that are the best candidates for drug development."
"This will open up the discovery pipeline, allowing us to more rapidly identify new molecules with potential to enter the clinic for treatment of multi-drug-resistant pathogens."
The UC San Diego research team, which also includes UC San Diego professor of chemistry and biochemistry Michael Burkart, will continue its work on antibiotics.
Image: A magnified, 20,000X view, using a colorised scanning electron micrograph (SEM) that depicts a grouping of methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria. Photo: courtesy of Wikipedia.