The idea of “super bugs” freaks us out, but a groundbreaking discovery for producing antibiotics is giving us hope. It addresses the issue of antimicrobial resistance and may help propel the development of new antibiotics.
As background, Dr. Kim Lewis and Dr. Slava Epstein of Northeastern University discovered a new antibiotic called teixobactin that cures severe infections and to which bacteria are unlikely to become resistant. It’s only been tested in mice so far. However, it’s expected to be tested for humans for use on strep, TB, and serious staph infections
So, this new antibiotic and its potential is super cool. What’s really interesting about it is HOW it was discovered and what this means for future antibiotic development.
Problem: Growing new microbes is needed in order to make discoveries but only 1% of microbes can grow in the normal lab setting. The result – no new discoveries within antibiotics have been made in almost 30 years.
Solution: Grow bacteria in soil – their natural environment! How? Use “iChip” – a small device that can help isolate and cultivate single cells in their natural environment.
The iChip was created by NovoBiotic with input from Lewis and Epstein.
Why is this a big deal? According to the World Health Organization’s first global report on surveillance focusing on antibiotics, superbugs are a major problem. The CDC estimates that two million people in the U.S. alone become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections.
Could this novel yet simple way path the path for future discoveries with regards to antibiotics? Possibly. Although teixobactin is touted as the first new antibiotic discovery in 30 years, it’s still about 5 years away from use on people. In the meantime, check out the following resources that summarize teixobactin and the iChip in greater detail.
- Groundbreaking Northeastern Research Sweeps the Globe
- New Antibiotic Kills Pathogens Without Detectable Resistance
- New York Time – From a Pile of Dirt Hope For A Powerful New Antibiotic
- National Geographic – New Antibiotic Resists Resistance
- Gizmodo – We Found a New Antibiotic and Better Yet A New Way To Find Antibiotics
- NovoBiotic Technology for Previously “Unculturable” Organisms