Merck scientists have discovered an antibiotic that is effective in destroying MRSA, otherwise known as the hospital superbug. This antibiotic, unlike others, blocks the enzymes that produce fatty acids – essential for the construction of the membranes of bacteria. The compound binds to FabF.

If the drug successfully passes clinical trials, it will be only the third new antibiotic type in the last four decades. Most modern antibiotics still work on variations of compounds discovered in the late 1940s to 1950s. Current antibiotics either inhibit a bacterium’s ability to build a membrane or prevent it from creating proteins or DNA.

This fact, that most antibiotics are basically quite similar, may be one of the main reasons for the increasing incidence of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance is also the result of overuse of antibiotics.

Any completely new type of antibiotic is viewed with enthusiasm by doctors because it may smash resistance on the head and give us a headstart of many decades.

The researchers were looking through more than one quarter of a million natural products when they came across ?platensimycin’ found in a soil sample from South Africa. Platensimycin is produced by Streptomyces platensis, an actinomycete bacteria. Platensimycin was found to be a powerful inhibitor of many Gram-positive bacteria, including many Staphylococcus strains.

Initially, researchers found that platensimycin eliminated S. aureus bacteria, related to MRSA, from infected mice. According to their preliminary investigations, there were no toxic side-effects. After further tests, they found platensimycin to be very effective against MRSA and many other types of bacteria.

This could be welcome news for doctors who are concerned at the rising numbers MRSA infection cases in hospitals throughout most of the world. The majority of pharmaceutical companies have moved away from antibiotic research. Over the last ten years the number of new antibiotics coming onto the market has gone down, while the number of MRSA cases has been steadily rising. MRSA is resistant to most antibiotics.

The scientists said that this potential breakthrough is in its birth and we could be looking at several years before a new, effective and safe product is on the market.

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today