Scientists have discovered a new compound that could pave the way for new treatments to tackle superbugs.
Researchers from Sheffield University’s department of chemistry are testing the new compound on gram negative bacteria – the most difficult to treat of all infections.
There have been no new treatments for gram negative infections in the last 50 years and they are top of the World Health Organization’s list of priority pathogens for which new medicines are urgently needed.
Gram negative bacteria are multi-drug resistant bugs that pose a particular threat in hospitals and nursing homes, and among patients who need devices such as ventilators and catheters.
They can cause severe and often deadly illnesses such as urinary tract infections, bloodstream infections and pneumonia. And they are particularly difficult to treat because their cell wall is hard to penetrate.
Writing in the journal ACS Nano, the Sheffield University researchers described how they studied the structures of anti-cancer drugs based on ruthenium, a rare metal.
Jim Thomas, professor of bio-inorganic chemistry at Sheffield University, said that the team tweaked the structure of the metal-based compounds to see if they had antimicrobial properties.
“We played about with the structure and tried to make it so it would be preferentially taken up by the bacteria. We ended up with something that was toxic towards bacteria, particularly gram negative bacteria, and not toxic towards humans,” he said.
The researchers tested the compound on wax moth larvae, which have a primitive immune system and are particularly useful to study because they become darker when they are ill.
The compound is luminescent so it glows when exposed to light.
Source: The Telegraph