Research, New Antibiotic Works Against Deadly Bacteria

Research, New Antibiotic Works Against Deadly Bacteria

Scientists say they’ve developed a new antibiotic that appears to work against a deadly bacteria resistant to most drugs.

Scientists from Harvard University and the pharmaceutical company Roche announced the creation of zosurabalpin in the online journal Nature. The new drug targets a bacteria called acinetobacter baumannii that thrives in medical environments like hospitals and, according to the CDC, caused about 8,500 infections and killed 700 people in 2017. 

Acinetobacter baumannii can cause infections in the lungs, urinary tract, and blood. The bacteria is resistant to a range of antibiotics called carbapenems, earning it the name carbapenem-resistant acinetobacter baumannii, or CRAB.

Like other antibiotic bacteria, CRAB is encased in an outer cell membrane made up of molecules called lipopolysaccharides that protect the bacteria from its surrounding environment, Fierce Pharma said in an article about the new drug. Zosurabalpin kills CRAB by interrupting lipopolysaccharides as they work to construct the outer membrane.

The research showed zosurabalpin worked in the lab on mice that had CRAB-induced infections. Roche has already started clinical trials on humans, Fierce Pharma said.

“The ongoing research into zosurabalpin, as well as a second novel class of antibiotics being developed by Roche in human clinical studies, will help uncover new biology about the construction of bacterial membranes,” Michael Lobritz, MD, global head of infectious diseases at Roche Pharma Research and Early Development, said in a statement. 

“Our goal is to contribute new innovations to overcome antimicrobial resistance, one of the biggest infectious disease challenges to public health.”

In 2017, the World Health Organization named the bacteria that for which antibiotics were most urgently needed. CRAB was at the top of the list. 

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