Scientists have developed a new antibiotic that could treat infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria, which are one of the biggest challenges for modern medicine.
What is the new antibiotic and how does it work?
The new antibiotic, called zosurabalpin, is a combination of two existing drugs: aztreonam and avibactam. Aztreonam is an antibiotic that can kill a type of bacteria called Acinetobacter baumannii, but it is often inactivated by enzymes called beta-lactamases that the bacteria produce. Avibactam is a drug that inhibits the beta-lactamases, allowing aztreonam to work effectively.
Acinetobacter baumannii is a dangerous bacterium that can cause serious infections in the lungs, urinary tract, blood, and other parts of the body. It is resistant to many antibiotics, including a class of powerful drugs called carbapenems. The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed it as one of the top priority pathogens that pose the greatest threat to human health.
How effective is the new antibiotic against drug-resistant bacteria?
The new antibiotic was tested in two phase 3 clinical trials involving patients with complicated intra-abdominal infections, hospital-acquired pneumonia, and ventilator-associated pneumonia. The trials compared the new antibiotic with the best available therapy for each condition.
The results showed that the new antibiotic was effective against more than 100 clinical samples of carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii (CRAB), and also against other multidrug-resistant bacteria that produce metallo-beta-lactamases (MBLs), which are enzymes that can break down most antibiotics.
The new antibiotic also reduced the levels of bacteria in the lungs and blood of mice with CRAB-induced pneumonia and sepsis, and prevented their death. The drug was well tolerated by the patients, with no new safety concerns.
What are the implications and challenges of the new antibiotic?
The new antibiotic could be a valuable addition to the limited arsenal of drugs that can treat infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria, especially in hospital settings where these bacteria are prevalent and can spread easily. The drug could also help to reduce the mortality and morbidity associated with these infections, which are often difficult to treat and can lead to complications and organ failure.
However, the new antibiotic is not yet approved for use in humans, and it still needs to undergo regulatory review and approval by health authorities around the world. The drug is currently in phase 1 clinical trials to assess its safety, tolerability, and pharmacology in humans.
Moreover, the new antibiotic is not a panacea for the problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which is the ability of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites to evolve and become resistant to the drugs that are used to treat them. AMR is a complex and multifaceted issue that requires a coordinated and holistic approach from all sectors and stakeholders, including governments, health professionals, researchers, industry, and the public.
According to the WHO, AMR is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development, and it could cause 10 million deaths per year by 2050 if no action is taken. Therefore, it is essential to preserve the effectiveness of existing antibiotics, as well as to develop new ones, by implementing measures such as infection prevention and control, rational use of antibiotics, surveillance and monitoring of resistance, research and innovation, and awareness and education.