New Antibiotic Proves Effective Against "Superbugs"

New Antibiotic Proves Effective Against "Superbugs"

Underwater photo, coral reef

Image Source: Wikimedia

Scientists have found a new, naturally-derived antibiotic deep underwater, and it's so far proven surprisingly effective against the highly dangerous MRSA bacteria.

While nature may be the planet's built-in medicine cabinet, most antibiotics manufactured today were created in a lab. They're generally based on a combination of natural substances, but in our modern era, it's increasingly rare that science stumbles upon an entirely new, naturally-occuring antibiotic - the last naturally-derived antibiotic debuted way back in 2003 - but that's exactly what's happened off the coast of California.

Dubbed "Anthracimycin," this new antibiotic compound is derived from the aquatic Streptomyces bacteria. According to researchers, it exhibits a unique chemical structure, which not only makes it surprisingly effective against otherwise wildly dangerous maladies like MRSA, but it also offers hope that Anthracimycin could be used as a basis on which to create new therapeutic drugs.

"The discovery of truly new antibiotic compounds is quite rare," says research leader William Fenical, a professor of Oceanography and Pharmaceutical Science at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

"It's not just one discovery. It opens up the opportunity to develop analogues - potentially hundreds," Fenical adds. "Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin in 1928 and from that more than 25 drugs were developed. When you find a new antibiotic structure, it goes beyond just one."

That bit about Anthracimycin being a potent weapon against MRSA is a key point here: MRSA has become a huge problem for hospitals, where it can quickly spread between patients. The biggest issue with MRSA (aside from the fact that it dissolves a person's flesh in horrific fashion) is that it's highly antibiotic resistant. In lab tests performed on MRSA-infected mice however, Anthracimycin was able to neutralize or eradicate the MRSA infection in 85 percent of test subjects.

Anthrax is typically less antibiotic resistant than MRSA, but since it's become a popular biological weapon over the past decade, there are groups out there with the ability and drive to manufacture new strains of anthrax that resist modern treatments. The researchers hope that Anthracimycin will allow government agencies to create a new, secret antibiotic that terrorists are unable to counteract with clever biological manipulation.

While this discovery is undoubtedly good news, it does highlight one worrying issue: Our oceans are full of potentially life-saving drugs that mankind has yet to discover, but few companies are willing or able to dive down and find them.

"The potential for discoveries in oceans is enormous," says Professor Fenical. "It's by far the largest biodiversity resource we have. It's a 3D resource too - it has animals, plants, microbes and when you reach the bottom there's an incredible richness of micro-organisms."

"But pharmaceutical companies don't have the expertise or the inclination to make ocean discoveries. There are about six marine-derived drugs in circulation and another 26 in clinical trials - including Marizomid and Plinabulin - but these discoveries have been made by academics. A lot of them are in the field of cancer and serious pain control and inflammation," he adds.

If you need a daily dose of cynicism, there's your cue. There's a pharmacological treasure trove beneath the sea with potential cures for everything from cancer to the common cold, and the only people who seem to be acting on this information are professors and grad students.

Source: Science Alert

Permalink

Earnest Cavalli:
Dubbed "Anthracimycin," this new antibiotic compound is derived from the aquatic Steptomyses bacteria.

Streptomyces, please. We're exploiting them for our own good, the least we can do is remember their name.

Good thing we found something to save us loads of money for development of a new artificial one. But damn you Wiley for requiring me to buy the original paper!

Earnest Cavalli:
...
If you need a daily dose of cynicism, there's your cue. There's a pharmacological treasure trove beneath the sea with potential cures for everything from cancer to the common cold, and the only people who seem to be acting on this information are professors and grad students.
...

Well, until its found in twenty years or so that it iself causes cancer or kills the body or something like how everyhting seems ot turn evil in twenty years.

So, new miracle drugs found under the ocean.

...

If I'm the only one thinking about Plasmids, then something's horribly wrong.

Well not to worry, the oceans will be comming to us soon enough.

Earnest Cavalli:
If you need a daily dose of cynicism, there's your cue. There's a pharmacological treasure trove beneath the sea with potential cures for everything from cancer to the common cold, and the only people who seem to be acting on this information are professors and grad students.

So smart people do smart things while greedy people make money? What a surprise

Now, I'm actually really ignorant, but...

Anthracimycin was able to neutralize or eradicate the MRSA infection in 85 percent of test subjects.

Doesn't that just mean the MRSA in the other 15% of subjects will spread, and basically render the discovery a moot point?

Quaxar:

Earnest Cavalli:
Dubbed "Anthracimycin," this new antibiotic compound is derived from the aquatic Steptomyses bacteria.

Streptomyces, please. We're exploiting them for our own good, the least we can do is remember their name.

Typo fixed!

Though I'm still confused as to why Chrome recognizes "Steptomyses" as a legitimate word but not "Streptomyces."

... and now I'm also confused as to how I just double-posted.

I didn't realize that was even possible via the backend. We're learning all kinds of new things today!

Earnest Cavalli:

Earnest Cavalli:

Quaxar:

Streptomyces, please. We're exploiting them for our own good, the least we can do is remember their name.

Typo fixed!

Though I'm still confused as to why Chrome recognizes "Steptomyses" as a legitimate word but not "Streptomyces."

That's okay. At first glance I thought it read "stepmomysces," which had me waiting for the inevitable discovery of "inlawyces" and "smellyuncleyces."

Earnest Cavalli:
snip

Double post by an editor? Never thought I'd see that.

OT: Sounds interesting. Makes you wonder if there is anything else useful down there. You know, besides inspiration for horror movies.

EDIT: Also a very quick fix, nice one!

Oh good, we'll be perfectly prepared for the Andromeda strain and won't need to send a probe back in time!

Doclector:
So, new miracle drugs found under the ocean.

...

If I'm the only one thinking about Plasmids, then something's horribly wrong.

I was thinking of some of the stuff Captain Nemo says from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but Bioshock works, too xD

Araksardet:
Now, I'm actually really ignorant, but...

Anthracimycin was able to neutralize or eradicate the MRSA infection in 85 percent of test subjects.

Doesn't that just mean the MRSA in the other 15% of subjects will spread, and basically render the discovery a moot point?

Eventually. No antibiotic kills 100% or we wouldn't need to worry any more. That's what MRSA is anyway, it's just regular Staphylococcus aureus (SA) that has become resistant to the most commonly used narrow-spectrum antibiotics against it, beta-lactams such as Methicillin. "MRSA is literally just "Methycillin resistant S. aureus".

If you can treat over 80% of MRSA infections you can massively reduce infection rates though since you just took everyone around those 80% out of the infection chain. And not like it's the only antibiotic we can use against MRSA, there's still other backup antibiotics that remain useful like Vancomycin, although its effectiveness has dwindled immensely in the last decade or so, or the much newer Daptomycin, which attack MRSA over a different path to which it has no adapted resistance yet.

Does that mean we'll kill off MRSA? Certainly not, S. aureus is pretty good at surviving, as are most infectuous diseases, but applying that one clinical test to practice we can now cure MRSA in 80% of patients where it previously might not have been possible due to the aggressive strain, not only directly saving a huge load of patients but also indirectly massively reducing the spread of the resistant strains, preventing many of contracting it in the first place.

That's cool. I personally work in natural drug discovery research. And although we spend a lot of time and isolate a lot of compounds most of the time they aren't anything special. I'll probably have to read this paper now. These folks are really lucky to work with marine life. That'd be my dream job.

edit: Just finished the paper and wow these guys are lucky. Looks like they discovered a whole new class of broad spectrum antibiotics. This research probably was years in the making. They even tested chlorinated products for activity. What's interesting to me is that it switched from being effective against gram-positive bacteria to gram-negative bacteria after chlorination...very interesting.

emeraldrafael:
Well, until its found in twenty years or so that it iself causes cancer or kills the body or something like how everyhting seems ot turn evil in twenty years.

Nah, this drug is going to be fine.

The problem is going to be that as soon as we start using it regularly, the bacteria will adapt to it (because that's what they always do), and it will become less and less effective until it stops working altogether.

Give it a few years and those pesky bacteria will be back in our bodies, resisting our drugs. Little buggers!

Now THIS is news!

CriticalMiss:
Give it a few years and those pesky bacteria will be back in our bodies, resisting our drugs. Little buggers!

Now THAT is cynicism!

Now THAT is realism!

Okay, I'm not sure what it is, but it's definitely a downer. :(

Agayek:

The problem is going to be that as soon as we start using it regularly, the bacteria will adapt to it (because that's what they always do), and it will become less and less effective until it stops working altogether.

It's like Sisyphus in a way. The difference is instead of a boulder, we have a plague-ball.
Note to self: idea for an extreme sport.

Earnest Cavalli:

If you need a daily dose of cynicism, there's your cue. There's a pharmacological treasure trove beneath the sea with potential cures for everything from cancer to the common cold, and the only people who seem to be acting on this information are professors and grad students.

As a postdoc pursuing a research faculty position, to this I say HELL YEAH ROCK ON ACADEMIC SCIENCE WOOOOWOWOWOOOOOEEEEIOOOOOOOOOOOOO

In all seriousness, back in the 50's there was an open agreement between universities and government. Several scientific funding agencies were established, including the National Science Foundation, that would organize and and centralize the funding of scientific research. While companies like Johnson and Johnson are able to do research and development and make new surfactant products for baby hair care, theres no companies well-positioned to do things like centrifuge and characterize 100,000 tiny volumes of liquid extracted from goop dug up off a continental shelf in order to maybe find a compound that might have antibiotic effects. Pro tip: lots of things have antibiotic effects; that doesn't make them a safe and effective drug for human consumption.

Thats exactly the sort of project you need a small team, typically led by a research professor, and manned by graduate students and postdocs. There really is no one better for a job. For instance, the research team I work in is developing brain-machine interfaces. There is not a single company in the world that is doing what we are doing, for even if they had the technical capability (they don't) they would lack the vision, and you can't buy vision. But several pharmaceutical companies have heard of our vision and have offered to throw money at us.

Which we will accept, openly.

tl:dr? IM GONNA PUT A USB IN YOUR BRAIN

thiosk:

tl:dr? IM GONNA PUT A USB IN YOUR BRAIN

Brain porn is the future 0_o

OT: Knowing us, companies are going to jockey for who has the rights to make what, mass produce the shit out of it, and we'll have bacteria resistant to it within the decade.

Nah, I truly hope that this becomes a development that saves MANY lives down the road and spurs on new medicinal research.

Quaxar:

Araksardet:
Now, I'm actually really ignorant, but...

Anthracimycin was able to neutralize or eradicate the MRSA infection in 85 percent of test subjects.

Doesn't that just mean the MRSA in the other 15% of subjects will spread, and basically render the discovery a moot point?

Eventually. No antibiotic kills 100% or we wouldn't need to worry any more. That's what MRSA is anyway, it's just regular Staphylococcus aureus (SA) that has become resistant to the most commonly used narrow-spectrum antibiotics against it, beta-lactams such as Methicillin. "MRSA is literally just "Methycillin resistant S. aureus".

If you can treat over 80% of MRSA infections you can massively reduce infection rates though since you just took everyone around those 80% out of the infection chain. And not like it's the only antibiotic we can use against MRSA, there's still other backup antibiotics that remain useful like Vancomycin, although its effectiveness has dwindled immensely in the last decade or so, or the much newer Daptomycin, which attack MRSA over a different path to which it has no adapted resistance yet.

Does that mean we'll kill off MRSA? Certainly not, S. aureus is pretty good at surviving, as are most infectuous diseases, but applying that one clinical test to practice we can now cure MRSA in 80% of patients where it previously might not have been possible due to the aggressive strain, not only directly saving a huge load of patients but also indirectly massively reducing the spread of the resistant strains, preventing many of contracting it in the first place.

plus, since a lot of doctors are reporting that some strains of antibiotic-resistant syphilis and gonorrhea are spreading like crazy, it might help to keep some peoples head sane..

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/5387438/ns/health-sexual_health/t/drug-resistant-syphilis-spreading/
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57569445/drug-resistant-gonorrhea-on-the-rise-cdc-claims/

now we should stop wasting our oceans. literally.

Good news.

Can we keep these ones from getting into livestock? And stop doctors from prescribing them to get whiny patients who don't understand their conditions can't be treated by antibiotics to go away? It would be nice if we could stop breeding antibiotic-resistant strains so much faster than we develop antibiotics.

Callate:
snip

Your post reminds me of the time I worked in a warehouse in California. A girl in the main office had a cold and her mom gave her drugs purchased in Mexico legally and over-the-counter. The drug in question: Tetracycline. I saw the bottle myself. Yep, her mom was giving her antibiotics--for a virus. And no, her mom was not a doctor (shocking!).

It's not like the US is any less culpable of course. We're putting antibiotics in Band Aids and giving goldfish Triple Sulfa.

The real reason MRSA is dangerous is not because it is a flesh-eating bacteria of epic proportions (it ain't), but rather because it is a body-foreign bacteria that doesn't get killed off by antibiotics. Normally these body-foreign bacteria ain't a problem, but if you use antibiotics to kill most other forms of bacteria you end up with a great opportunity for MRSA to suddenly spread like crazy. It begins multiplying like nobodies business and before you know it is causing infections (especially in open wounds). For a healthy person between 15 and 65 this ain't no thing, not much worse than any other infection you are likely to be subjected too. But for an old person who has already suffered an infection and is weakened from it? It is likely to kill them. And since old people are the main recipients of in-patient care MRSA can turn a serious bu non-lethal cause of admission (such as pneumonia) into a string of nosocomial infections that eventually kills the patient.

That's why MRSA, VRE and similar multi-resistant bacteria are a problem: not because they are unusually dangerous or lethal, but because they compound health problems in a population that is already weakened and potentially unable to deal with follow-up infections.

Agayek:

emeraldrafael:
Well, until its found in twenty years or so that it iself causes cancer or kills the body or something like how everyhting seems ot turn evil in twenty years.

Nah, this drug is going to be fine.

The problem is going to be that as soon as we start using it regularly, the bacteria will adapt to it (because that's what they always do), and it will become less and less effective until it stops working altogether.

I was just going to say before I read your post that we should stop doctors from giving them out like they're sweets.

Callate:
Good news.

Can we keep these ones from getting into livestock? And stop doctors from prescribing them to get whiny patients who don't understand their conditions can't be treated by antibiotics to go away? It would be nice if we could stop breeding antibiotic-resistant strains so much faster than we develop antibiotics.

This, this, this and more fucking this.
That's one thing (of many) that irks me about humanity. We keep trying to cling to science as if it's a miracle worker and our actions will never EVER have possible consequences, or "not in our back yard mentality." The cynical side of me believes we may actually just flat out end up killing ourselves because some one couldn't suffer through a cold for a couple days, and then proceed to stop taking their AB's early, allowing resistant bacteria to infect us all.

Hopefully we can find a few more things on the scant years before ocean acidification turns the seas into giant empty bubbling pools of death.

We are so screwed.

And when we abuse the shit out of this new antibiotic by putting in everything it doesn't need to be in, new uberbugs will start showing up, and that call-and-response game can continue! Progress!

Seriously though, we really need to chill the fuck out with the antibiotic soaps and sanitation gels.

 

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