Novel non-antibiotic agents against MRSA and common strep infections

September 12, 2012

Menachem Shoham, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, has discovered novel antivirulence drugs that, without killing the bacteria, render Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) and Streptococcus pyogenes, commonly referred to as strep, harmless by preventing the production of toxins that cause disease. The promising discovery was presented this week at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in San Francisco.

are a growing public health concern, causing 20,000 to 40,000 deaths per year in the United States alone. It is the most prevalent in hospital settings and in the community at large, with about one million documented infections per year nationally, costing an estimated $8 billion annually to treat.

The problem has become increasingly severe as the bacteria have developed a resistance to antibiotics. As result, are running out of options to treat patients suffering from antibiotic-, like MRSA and strep, creating a dire need for alternative treatments and approaches.

" are ubiquitous and normally do not cause infections, however, occasionally these bacteria become harmful due to their secretion of toxins," says Dr. Shoham. "We have discovered potential antivirulence drugs that block the production of toxins, thus rendering the bacteria harmless. Contrary to antibiotics, these new antivirulence drugs do not kill the bacteria. Since the survival of the bacteria is not threatened by this approach, the development of resistance, like that to antibiotics, is not anticipated to be a serious problem."

Dr. Shoham identified a , known as AgrA, as the key molecule responsible for turning on the release of toxins. AgrA, however, needs to be activated to induce toxin production. His goal was to block the activation of AgrA with a drug, thus preventing the cascade of toxin release into the blood that can lead to serious infections throughout the body.

The screening for AgrA inhibitors was initially carried out in a computer by docking libraries of many thousands of "drug-like" compounds and finding out which compounds would fit best into the activation site on AgrA. Subsequently, about 100 of the best scoring compounds were tested in the laboratory for inhibition of the production of a toxin that ruptures red blood cells. Seven of these compounds were found to be active. Testing compounds bearing chemical similarity to the original compounds lead to the discovery of additional and more potent so-called "lead" compounds.

Optimization of the initial "lead" compounds was performed by chemical synthesis of 250 new compounds bearing small but important chemical modifications on one of the initial leads. More than a dozen active have been discovered by this method. The best drug candidate reduces red blood cell rupture by 95 percent without affecting bacterial growth.

Beginning this fall, Dr. Shoham and colleagues will begin testing the drug candidate in animal models.

"It is possible to inhibit virulence of MRSA without killing the bacteria," continues Dr. Shoham. "Such antivirulence drugs may be used for prophylaxis or therapy by themselves or in combination with an antibiotic. Antivirulence therapy may resensitize bacteria to antibiotics that have become ineffective by themselves."

Explore further: 'Resuscitating' antibiotics to overcome drug resistance

Related Stories

'Resuscitating' antibiotics to overcome drug resistance

March 28, 2012
Combining common antibiotics with additional compounds could make previously resistant bacteria more susceptible to the same antibiotics. 'Resuscitation' of existing antibiotics has the potential to make infections caused ...

Can antivirulence drugs stop infections without causing resistance?

October 10, 2011
Antivirulence drugs disarm pathogens rather than kill them, and although they could be effective in theory, antivirulence drugs have never been tested in humans. A new study to be published in the online journal mBio on Tuesday, ...

Recommended for you

A sodium surprise: Engineers find unexpected result during cardiac research

July 20, 2017
Irregular heartbeat—or arrhythmia—can have sudden and often fatal consequences. A biomedical engineering team at Washington University in St. Louis examining molecular behavior in cardiac tissue recently made a surprising ...

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

Engineered liver tissue expands after transplant

July 19, 2017
Many diseases, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lead to liver failure. More than 17,000 Americans suffering from these diseases are now waiting for liver transplants, but significantly fewer livers are available.

Lunatic Fringe gene plays key role in the renewable brain

July 19, 2017
The discovery that the brain can generate new cells - about 700 new neurons each day - has triggered investigations to uncover how this process is regulated. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Jan and Dan Duncan ...

New animal models for hepatitis C could pave the way for a vaccine

July 19, 2017
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of hepatitis C—a disease that affects nearly 71 million people worldwide, causing cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated—it might be worth ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.