A powerful antibiotic that can tackle superbugs has been discovered in the “dark matter” of bacteria.
And the new drug, called Clovibactin, kills bacteria in an unusual way, making it less likely to become prey to resistance.
Scientists in the U.S. managed to grow “bacterial dark matter,” which are so-called unculturable bacteria.
Intriguingly, 99 percent of all bacteria are “unculturable” and could not be grown in laboratories previously, hence they could not be mined for novel antibiotics.
The new drug was discovered from bacterial dark matter found in a sandy soil from North Carolina.
It was developed by a team from Utrecht University, Bonn University, the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), Northeastern University of Boston and the company NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, Mass.
NovoBiotic along with Northeastern University developed a device that allows to grow “bacterial dark matter.”
Dr. Markus Weingarth, a researcher from the Chemistry Department of Utrecht University, used a special technique called solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) that allows to study Clovibactin’s mechanism under similar conditions as in bacteria.
Dr. Weingarth said: “We urgently need new antibiotics to combat bacteria that become increasingly resistant to most clinically used antibiotics.
Clovibactin successfully attacked a broad spectrum of bacterial pathogens including mice infected with the superbug Staphylococcus aureus.
It targets not just one, but three different precursor molecules that are all essential for the construction of the cell wall, an envelope-like structure that surrounds bacteria.
“As Clovibactin only binds to the immutable, conserved part of its targets, bacteria will have a much harder time developing any resistance against it.
“In fact, we did not observe any resistance to Clovibactin in our studies.”
The results, published in the journal Cell, revealed the drug was named after its mechanism acting like a cage, Clovibactin derived from Greek word “Klouvi,” which means cage.
It was also discovered that Clovibactin self-assembles into large fibrils on the surface of bacterial membranes.
These fibrils are stable for a long time and ensure that the target molecules remain locked in for as long as necessary to kill bacteria.
Dr. Weingarth said: “Since these fibrils only form on bacterial membranes and not on human membranes, they are presumably also the reason why Clovibactin selectively damages bacterial cells but is not toxic to human cells.
“Clovibactin hence has potential for the design of improved therapeutics that kill bacterial pathogens without resistance development.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
(Additional reporting provided by Talker News)