Scientists have announced what they say is a “major breakthrough” in the fight against antibiotic resistance, after a new compound combined with an existing antibiotic has proven successful in phase II trials.

Antibiotic resistance is defined as an infection that does not respond to a particular drug, as a result of bacteria changes that make the infection immune to the drug.

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Scientists say a compound called HT61 has proven successful in phase II trials at boosting the effectiveness of old antibiotics against drug resistance.

Drug-resistant bacteria is a global concern. Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a statement from Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Davies, saying that within the next 20 years, individuals undergoing simple operations may die because there will be no antibiotics left to effectively deal with routine infections.

But small UK drug company, Helperby Therapeutics, has announced it has found a new series of “potent, fast acting drugs” that could boost the effectiveness of older antibiotics.

Investigators at Helperby Therapeutics have been investigating ways to combat antibiotic resistance for the past 12 years. These new drugs were tested specifically on non-multiplying dormant bacteria – something that had never been done before, according to the researchers.

The investigators focused on one compound in particular, called HT61. In a phase II trial, this drug was successful in improving the effect of an old antibiotic.

HT61 did this by eliminating the bacterial cell membrane and enhancing the anti-Staphylococcal effect of an old antibiotic in decolonizing the nose before hospitalization.

The researchers say their findings show it is “feasible” to boost the effect of old antibiotics in humans and create a “rejuvenated range of existing antibiotics.”

Furthermore, the scientists note that HT61 was also effective in boosting old antibiotics and making them active against highly resistant bacteria. From this, the investigators have deemed the compound an “antibiotic resistance breaker.”

Helperby Therapeutics’ findings have landed the company an initial licensing deal with Indian pharmaceutical company Cadila Pharmaceuticals. Helperby says it will provide Cadila with the antibiotic resistance breakers, while Cadila will combine these with old antibiotics.

This deal will take the new compound through a phase III trial, and if successful, this could lead to drug approval and commercialization, say the investigators.

Cadila, the first Indian pharmaceutical company to receive Investigational New Drug approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), says it is now considering a presence in the UK as a result of the collaboration, and the agreement could lead to the first product being introduced to the market in approximately 18 months.

Commenting on the collaboration, Chief Scientific Officer of Helperby Therapeutics Prof. Anthony Coates says:

The emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens has accelerated whilst the pipeline for new anti-microbial drugs has all but run dry – this exciting and timely partnership with Cadila offers us all hope.”

Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed a set of classifications and actions against drug-resistant bacteria.