Researchers at Israel-based biopharmaceutical firm Q2 Pharma Ltd. and the Case Western Reserve University have identified and patented a group of non-antibiotic, small-molecule antivirulence compounds that show potential in treating bacterial infections such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus. According to researchers, the compounds were designed to inhibit disease-causing toxins from forming in gram-positive bacteria such as MRSA. The compounds may also prevent the onset of antibiotic resistance as they did not appear to endanger the bacteria’s survival, the researchers said.
The scientists also noted that one compound in particular, called F19, showed efficacy in treating an MRSA skin infection in an animal model. In addition, F19 was found to significantly reduce the presence of wound bacteria when used as an add-on treatment to an otherwise ineffective antibiotic agent. Researchers said the compound also showed potency against other gram-positive bacteria such as Clostridium difficile, Bacillus anthracis and Staphylococcus epidermidis as well as Streptococcus pyogenes and Streptococcus pneumoniae.
According to the research team, the F19 compound binds to a protein that triggers the expression of disease-causing toxins. This mechanism then impaired the bacteria from producing toxins, rendering them benign. In addition, the F19 compound helped inhibit the formation of bacterial biofilms. The researchers said these biofilms are slimy shells that the bacteria use for protection against antibacterial medications .
“By killing bacterial pathogens, antibiotics eventually induce the organism to develop resistance. This is the case with once-highly-effective antibiotics such as penicillin. In contrast, our antivirulence agents strip the bacteria pathogen of its ability to produce harmful toxins without killing the pathogen. This results in little, if any, need to develop resistance. Without the toxins, the bacteria remain harmless, so people can go about their lives without any sign of disease. The potential drugs we developed have the additional benefit of enabling the use of ‘old’ antibiotics in combination therapy,” wrote lead researcher Menachem Shoham in TheDaily.case.edu.
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A two-year option for a license agreement will allow human testing of the antivirulence compounds.
The dangers of antibiotic-resistant superbugs
The recent discovery of the antivirulence compounds may provide new opportunities to combat drug-resistant bacteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than two million Americans develop antibiotic-resistant infections annually, which leads to a death toll of 23,000. Health experts said infection-related mortality may surpass those of cancer or heart disease by 2050 if new interventions are not developed. The financial burden of superbug infection in the U.S. amounts to $20 billion per year, the CDC data reveals.
These superbugs have long been associated with a plethora of adverse health conditions. For instance, MRSA infections account for 18,650 deaths in the U.S. annually. This drug-resistant bacteria is associated with the development of various skin disorders such as boils, abscesses, impetigo, and wound infections. The bacteria is also linked to the onset of pneumonia, urinary tract infection, and endocarditis. (Related: Learn more about natural treatments for various diseases and illnesses by reading Cures.news).
On the other hand, Bacillus anthracis is known to trigger the life-threatening anthrax disease. According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, anthrax disease may lead to serious conditions including pneumonia, blood infection, and even death. In addition, the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria is associated with the onset of pneumococcal disease. According to the CDC, pneumococcal disease may cause various invasive and non-invasive disorders including meningitis, bacteremia, pneumonia, and acute otitis media. Pneumococcal disease account for about four million illnesses in the U.S., a CDC surveillance data shows. The disease is also found to cause 445,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths per year.
Furthermore, Streptococcus pyogenes infection is known to cause acute pharyngitis. The bacteria accounts for 15 percent to 30 percent of acute pharyngitis cases in children, and five percent to 10 percent of cases in adults.