The research showed that Solonamide B - a peptide extracted from a bug called Photobacterium halotolerans that is found in the Solomon Islands - stops staphylococci making both the toxins that can kill infected patients and the proteins that help resistant strains like MRSA withstand treatment.
This finding – which builds on the earlier discovery that Solonamide B interferes with how superbugs communicate– has significant implications for scientists trying to develop much needed alternatives to antibiotics according to lead researcher, Prof Hanne Ingmer.
She told in-Pharmatechnologist.com that: “I believe that the compounds have the potential to both treat and prevent infections.
“The important difference compared to antibiotics is that the compound here does not kill the bacteria but "just" reduce their ability to produce toxins and other toxic molecules and it is the subsequent action of the immune system that we’re relying on for eradication.”
The drug industry has seemingly lost interest in developing new antibiotics over the past 30 years, which is a problem because bacteria like MRSA have become resistant to available products and – as a result – infections have become increasingly difficult to treat.
More recently some drug firms have started showing renewed interest in antibiotic development with Swiss giant Roche being the most notable example, but more ways of combatting resistant bacteria are still needed.
In September the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report on “antibiotic resistance threats” in which director Tom Frieden lamented the lack of new drugs in industry pipelines.
“Until now, we have seen a steady pipeline of new antibiotics coming on to the market. But unfortunately, it does seem that the pipeline is nearly empty for the short-term. And experts tell us new drugs could be nearly a decade away.”
With this in mind we asked Prof Ingmer – whose team has started assessing whether antivirulence compounds like Solonamide B could work in animals – whether any drugmakers have expressed an interest in developing resistance proof alternatives to antibiotics.
“We have not yet been in contact with any pharmaceutical companies but we are very interested in such collaborations.”