McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Newly discovered antibiotic shows promise says McMaster professor

Published: January 7, 2015
Gerry Wright
Gerry Wright, scientific director, Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research

The war against drug-resistant superbugs has been a losing battle, but this week's announcement that American and German researchers may be on the verge of developing a novel antibiotic has been welcomed by researchers at McMaster's Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research.

Published in the prestigious journal Nature, the international team believe the antibiotic, dubbed teixobactin, is promising not only for its potential against bacteria, but also because of its innovative way of growing directly in the soil.

Gerry Wright, scientific director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster, said the method it was found "offers hope that innovation and creativity can combine to solve the antibiotic crisis." His commentary accompanied the research paper in Nature, but he was not involved in the teixobactin research.

The new antibiotic found in the soil appears to be an effective and enduring killer of resistant strains. It represents a considerable leap in antimicrobial resistance, which has been identified  by the World Health Organization as a large and growing problem.

However, to date drug companies have had little incentive to invest in antibiotics because infectious disease specialists and public health officials would use any new antibiotic sparingly in hopes of preserving its potency for as long as possible.

As well, the value of a new antibiotic declines as bugs eventually develop resistance to it, meaning that the drugs have a "built-in self-destruct mechanism," said Wright.

Teixobactin still faces plenty of hurdles on its way to the clinic, including a difficult economic case for bringing new antibiotics to the market. Human trials are at least two years away.

Wright said superbugs may eventually outsmart teixobactin, assuming that the antibiotic passes the tests to become a treatment.

"I'm of the mind that there's no such thing as an irresistible antibiotic," he said. "But there are antibiotics for which it's really hard to get resistance and this is one of them."

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