‘Game-changing’ antibiotic successfully produced in HK

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A recently-discovered, “game-changing” antibiotic that could be the key to fighting the growing number of drug-resistant bacterial infections has been successfully synthesized by a research team at the University of Hong Kong.

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The University of Hong Kong team led by Dr. Li Xuechen worked with collaborators at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the University of Central Florida, and published their results in the journal Nature Communications.

The antibiotic, called teixobactin, can kill a wide range of bacteria without subsequent generations of the bacteria developing a resistance to it, the research report explained.

Antimicrobial resistance is increasing globally, and is considered a serious threat to public health. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), for example, has identified methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) as one of the most serious pathogens, with an “alarming” increase in cases in recent years in healthcare facilities and the general community alike.

Teixobactin was discovered in 2015 in soil bacteria, the research study explained. It has already been proven effective against a range of pathogens, including MRSA, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus and Mycobacterium tuberculosis, all without detectable resistance. In the study’s literature review, it noted that at least 15 research groups around the world have been working to develop a chemical process to synthesize teixobactin.

The strategy we developed is very efficient and can generate many teixobactin derivatives in a fast and combinatory manner,” Li wrote in the research report. The team was able to produce 10 teixobactin analogues with properties similar to the mother drug, and have filed for provisional patents for them in the US, a statement from the University of Hong Kong explained.

The research team said it is now working to synthesize more 100 different teixobactin derivatives within two years to search for analogues with improved pharmacological properties for clinical development.

The work is critical, because despite the urgent public need, pharmaceutical companies have been slow to invest in antibacterial development, due to low profit margins, Li pointed out.

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