A fearsome new antibiotic molecule eradicates the toughest superbugs

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While superbugs are a major health threat today, a new antibiotic has eradicated many of them, while leaving their harmless counterparts largely unscathed.


The bacteria are a good example of evolution in action. When faced with environmental hazards, such as antibiotics, only the strongest survive and reproduce, which implies the development of lines capable of resisting these compounds. Endowed with different defense mechanisms (including thicker cell walls), gram negative bacteria turn out to be particularly problematic.

Killing today more than malaria or AIDS, antibiotic resistance threatens to take us back to a dark age where once minor infections would turn deadly again.

In the context of work published in the journal ACS Central Science, US researchers have developed a promising new antibiotic candidate. Starting from an existing compound effective against gram-positive bacteria, the team modified its structure in an attempt to make it more effective against gram-negative strains.

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Named fabimycin, this has been shown to be effective against more than 200 clinically isolated colonies of superbugscomprising a total of 54 strains of microbes like E.coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Acinetobacter baumannii. In tests with mice, this eliminated cases of pneumonia or drug-resistant urinary tract infections by reducing bacteria levels to below levels before the infection.

Targeted action

Importantly, fabimycin was relatively selective in its attack, leaving some types of harmless bacteria largely unscathed. This is a significant improvement over many existing antibiotics known to indiscriminately eradicate many beneficial microbes that cause a wide range of unwanted side effects.

Currently refining the structure of the new compound, the authors of the study are also working on other molecules, which could quickly join our arsenal in the fight against superbugs and make it possible to effectively treat certain tough infections.

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