NSF-Funded Study Promising for Future Antibiotics


The chemistry researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have created a new way to synthesize and enhance a naturally-occurring antibiotic compound that may be used to combat deadly drug-resistant infections offing, including Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to as MRSA.

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, antibiotic-resistant infections affect more than 2 million individuals every year, causing over 23,000 deaths annually in the the U.S.

According to a 2018 study conducted by the CDC’s European counterpart, the drug-resistant superbugs led to around 33,000 deaths in Europe in 2015.

Previously, researchers have found a naturally-occurring antibiotic compound called thiopeptides as a promising compound to study. Thiopeptides proved slightly effective in combating MRSA and a few other bacterial species in restricted trials. Their structural diversity, unfortunately made it very tough for them to synthesize the molecules at a sufficient scale for therapeutic use.

In order to use thiopeptides more efficiently, the researchers at CU Boulder resorted on the basics and reexamined the assumptions made earlier, regarding these molecules’ foundational chemical properties.

The lead author of the latest research and an assistant professor at Department of Chemistry in CU Boulder, Maciej Walczak, said that they re-examined the structural commonalities of the thiopeptides considering the superbugs that exist today, as no researcher has taken them into notice and analyzed them in modern context.

The study researchers discovered a new catalyst that can fuel the reactions helpful in the thiopeptides synthesis, and can also create the essential scaffolding required to curb bacterial growth. As a result they got two novel widely representative antibiotics: thiocillin I and micrococcin P1, both of which are highly efficient, scalable and forms no harmful byproducts.

Walczak mentioned that the outcomes left them with goose bumps, as they got an extremely clean reaction. He added that water was the sole waste produced, and pronounced it a very green method that may prove vital as the technology gets advanced. The recently published study was sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

As per Walczak, the latest chemical synthesis methodology was just the beginning, as he and his fellow researchers are looking forward to use the study findings as a platform to select and ration parts of the thiopeptide molecules to enhance their properties and apply them largely to other bacterial classes.

The antibiotic compounds can get an approval for human use, only after they complete clinical trials. The process for human use approval usually takes many years.

He added that multi-drug resistance is a leading health problem across the world, and will turn worse in the coming years.


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