One of the problem areas in modern medicine is how quickly many diseases become resistant to various antibiotic groups; there’s a reason MRSA and other superbugs are a growing concern in hospitals and healthcare.
According to researchers, however, there may be help coming—in the form of a recently discovered class of antibiotics, antibiotics which may be naturally found in soils.
As researchers from The Rockefeller University report in Nature Microbiology, the new family of antibiotics are a special class of peptides—specialized chains of amino acids—which are calcium-dependent. Even better, these new antibiotics have thus far proven effective in combatting multi-drug resistant infections—and may be readily available in a wide range of soil types.
As such, researchers believe it could be tremendously helpful in helping cut down on infectious disease mortality, especially in hospital settings.
Some of this goes back to the new antibiotics’—known as malacadins—properties as a calcium-dependent antibiotic. Thus far, calcium-dependent antibiotics have proven more effective in targeting certain types of bacteria and may even be able to specifically target the formation of bacterial cell membranes, destroying bacterial cell walls.
Most promising, the team tested the malacadins against several commonly known problem pathogens. Among the most notable findings? The malacadins were successful in sterilizing MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), and even better, the bacteria attacked with the new malacadins did no develop resistance to the new antibiotics.
As senior author Dr. Sean Brady told BBC News,
“It is impossible to say when, or even if, an early stage antibiotic discovery like the malacidins will proceed to the clinic. It is a long, arduous road from the initial discovery of an antibiotic to a clinically used entity.”
Just as important, determining how to best create the antibiotics in the future is a process. For instance, even though the peptides in question might be found in a wide-range of soils, determining how best to collect them and use them to fight bacteria is still a long process, as is creating drugs that capitalize on them.
There’s also the important caveat that even as currently tested, malacidins are only effective against certain types of bacteria—gram-positive bacteria, which have a very thick cell wall. Other types of bacterial infections, such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections (which are both caused by gram-negative bacteria), cannot be effectively combatted with malacidins.
Still, given that antibiotic resistance is responsible for more than 20,000 deaths (and more than 2 million illnesses!) in the United States alone, this is a huge step forward and a major medical advancement.