Scientists stumble across new method of making antibiotics

July 13, 2017
A colorized scanning electron micrograph of MRSA. Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Cancer researchers in the UK may have stumbled across a solution to reverse antibiotic drug resistance and stop infections like MRSA.

Experts warn we are decades behind in the race against superbugs having already exploited naturally occurring antibiotics, with the creation of new ones requiring time, money and ingenuity.

But a team of scientists at the University of Salford say they may have found a very simple way forward – even though they weren't even looking for antibiotics.

And they have created and validated several already – many of which are as potent, or more so, than standard antibiotics, such as amoxicillin.

"A little like Alexander Fleming, we weren't even looking for antibiotics rather researching into new compounds that might be effective against ," explains Michael P. Lisanti, Chair of Translational Medicine at the University's Biomedical Research Centre.

"I think we've accidentally invented a systemic way of creating new antibiotics which is simple, cheap and could be very significant in the fight against superbugs," added Dr Federica Sotgia, a co-author on the study.

The Salford group specialise in stem and specifically methods of inhibiting energy production in mitochondria, the "powerhouse" of cells which fuels the growth of fatal tumours.

One of the team's work streams is how antibiotics can be effective against these mitochondria, so while searching a library of compounds for potential 'ammunition', they switched the focus and started hunting for compounds that were effective against mitochondria and could be tested as antibiotics.

"Mitochondria and bacteria have a lot in common," stresses Lisanti. "We began thinking that if what we found inhibited mitochondria, it would also kill bacteria. So, these new anti-cancer agents should also be potential antibiotics.

The team sorted through 45,000 compounds, using a three-dimensional structure of the mitochondrial ribosome – first identified by Venki Ramakrishnan, a Nobel-prize winner (Cambridge, UK) and President of The Royal Society.

They identified 800 small molecules which might inhibit mitochondria based on their structural characteristics and then whittled this down to the most promising 10 compounds, which they discovered using traditional phenotypic drug screening.

Their results showed that these synthetic - without any additional chemical engineering - inhibited a broad spectrum of 5 types of common bacteria, including Streptococcus, Pseudomonas, E. coli and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). They also killed the pathogenic yeast, Candida albicans.

These new antibiotics are called 'Mito-riboscins' because they were found by targeting the mitochondrial ribosome in human cancer cells.

'Mito-riboscins' are equally if not more potent than standard antibiotics.

"We have accidently invented a new strategy for identifying and designing new to target drug resistant bacteria," added Professor Lisanti.

"This was under our nose. The bottleneck with antibiotic discovery has been that there was no obvious systematic starting point. We may now have one. These were discovered, by simply screening candidates first on in cancer cells."

The paper is scheduled to appear in the journal Oncotarget.

Explore further: Vitamin C and antibiotics—a new one-two punch for knocking-out cancer stem cells.

More information: Mitoriboscins: Mitochondrial-based therapeutics targeting cancer stem cells (CSCs), bacteria and pathogenic yeast. Oncotarget. DOI: 10.18632/oncotarget.19084

Related Stories

Vitamin C and antibiotics—a new one-two punch for knocking-out cancer stem cells.

June 12, 2017
Cancer stem cells, which fuel the growth of fatal tumours, can be knocked out by a one-two combination of antibiotics and Vitamin C in a new experimental strategy, published by researchers at the University of Salford, UK.

New gene discovered driving drug resistance

April 4, 2017
Scientists in Salford, U.K., have identified a gene which is 'revving the engine of cancer' against the world's most common breast cancer drug.

Schoolgirl comment points to antibiotics as new cancer treatments

January 28, 2015
Professor Michael P. Lisanti, Director of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Unit, led the research. He was inspired to look at the effects of antibiotics on the mitochondria of cancer stem cells by a conversation with his daughter ...

One-two punch may floor worst infections

March 6, 2017
McMaster University researchers have found a new way to treat the world's worst infectious diseases, the superbugs that are resistant to all known antibiotics.

Antibiotic breakthrough: Team discovers how to overcome gram-negative bacterial defenses

May 10, 2017
Scientists report that they now know how to build a molecular Trojan horse that can penetrate gram-negative bacteria, solving a problem that for decades has stalled the development of effective new antibiotics against these ...

Recommended for you

Scientists find key to regenerating blood vessels

November 23, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) identifies a signaling pathway that is essential for angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels. The ...

Surprising roles for muscle in tissue regeneration, study finds

November 22, 2017
A team of researchers at Whitehead has illuminated an important role for different subtypes of muscle cells in orchestrating the process of tissue regeneration. In a paper published in the November 22 issue of Nature, they ...

Study reveals new mechanisms of cell death in neurodegenerative disorders

November 22, 2017
Researchers at King's College London have discovered new mechanisms of cell death, which may be involved in debilitating neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

Cinnamon turns up the heat on fat cells

November 21, 2017
New research from the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute has determined how a common holiday spice—cinnamon—might be enlisted in the fight against obesity.

How rogue immune cells cross the blood-brain barrier to cause multiple sclerosis

November 21, 2017
Drug designers working on therapeutics against multiple sclerosis should focus on blocking two distinct ways rogue immune cells attack healthy neurons, according to a new study in the journal Cell Reports.

New simple test could help cystic fibrosis patients find best treatment

November 21, 2017
Several cutting-edge treatments have become available in recent years to correct the debilitating chronic lung congestion associated with cystic fibrosis. While the new drugs are life-changing for some patients, they do not ...

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.