US researchers have discovered a new antibiotic that could become the first to enter the market in 30 years.
The antibiotic teixobactin could eliminate pathogens without encountering resistance and “holds great promise” for treating chronic infections such as tuberculosis and those caused by MRSA, suggested a team at Northeastern University in Massachusetts who published their research in scientific journal Nature on Wednesday (January 7).
Director of the university's antimicrobial discovery centre Kim Lewis, who led the research team, told C+D he anticipated the antibiotic would reach the market in five to six years, with clinical trials beginning in two years.
The discovery of teixobactin had involved a method that offered researchers “a new opportunity to develop compounds that are essentially free of resistance”, Professor Lewis said. An “advanced analog” of teixobactin would be made, he told C+D, and the team's research would continue to produce additional antibiotics with the same method.
A 'game changer'
University of Birmingham professor of microbiology Laura Piddock described the method used by the researchers as a “game changer for discovering new antibiotics”. “If teixobactin can be formulated into a new drug for patients, it could be used to treat infections such as tuberculosis or those caused by MRSA,” Professor Piddock said.
She told C+D it was “essential” that the antibiotic was picked up by a pharmaceutical company if it was to become a medicine for patient use.
Angelika Gründling, reader in molecular microbiology at Imperial College London, said the discovery raised hopes that new antibiotics could enter the market "in the not too distant future” to combat the widespread problem of antibiotic resistance.
Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said he was excited by the “tantalising prospect” that the discovery was just the “tip of the iceberg”. The study could revitalise the "antibiotic pipeline", which had "been drying up for many years”, he said.
“We need to open it up and develop alternatives to antibiotics at the same time, if we are to avert a public health disaster,” Professor Woolhouse said. He told C+D that teixobactin was unlikely to be used in a community setting, where broader spectrum drugs were favoured.
Last year, royal colleges warned that health professionals must take a “radical new approach” to antibiotics conservation if existing drugs were to remain effective.
Image credit: Brooks Canaday/Northeastern University