Stanford chemists have modified a common antibiotic to make it more effective at fighting off one common type of antibiotic-resistant bacterium, according to a university release.
According to Xinhua, chemists have developed a small molecular attachment that helps conventional antibiotics penetrate and destroy their targets, according to their article in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
The attachment, known as r8, helps guide antibiotics through a bacterium's outer defenses and encourages them to linger, Alexandra Antonoplis, a graduate student in chemistry and co-lead author of the report, was quoted by the release as saying.
The penetration and tenacity help kill bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, that doctors would otherwise struggle to stop, according to the release.
Adding r8 to vancomycin, a first-line defense against MRSA, made the new drug hundreds of times more effective, according to experiments conducted by the team.
The same strategy could apply beyond MRSA to other drugs and infections, said researchers.
"You don't have to invent a new drug. You just have to fix the problems with existing drugs," said Paul Wender, professor of chemistry and member of the Stanford Cancer Institute.
In the long run, the new approach could be good news for public health officials who have struggled with how to deal with antibiotic-resistant infections like MRSA.
MRSA, which often begins on the skin, causes more than half of hospital-related infections in Asia and the Americas, and it is the leading cause of death among antibiotic-resistant infections, according to the release.