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New drug looks promising for fighting bacteria with antibiotic resistance

Pseudouridimycin wasn't created in a lab; it was found in soil

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There are scientists across the world working in sterilized labs trying to create new antibiotics that will help protect us from constantly evolving microbial threats. But in a bit of a twist, the latest antibiotic that’s most effective against antibiotic-resistant bacteria wasn’t created in one of these labs – it was discovered in soil.

Scientists from Rutgers University-New Brunswick report that this new antibiotic, named pseudouridimycin, was found in a soil sample collected in Italy. Initial tests show that it is capable of killing a broad range of potentially harmful bacteria in test tubes and can cure certain bacterial infections in mice.

“The discovery…underscores the importance of natural products in providing new antibiotics,” said Stefano Donadio, co-leader of the study and CEO of NAICONS Srl., a biotechnolgocial company. “Microbes have had billions of years to develop ‘chemical weapons’ to kill other microbes.”

Fighting antibiotic resistance

Pseudouridimycin works by inhibiting bacterial RNA polymerase – a process that is essential for allowing a pathogen or bacteria to replicate and grow. While this function mirrors other widely used antibiotics like rifampin, researchers say that it is particularly potent because it does not affect the same binding sites..

Because of this, pseudouridimycin has no cross-resistance with many other antibiotics, meaning that it shuts down a whole different set of avenues for bacteria to proliferate. Lead researcher Richard H. Ebright explains how the new antibiotic interacts with these binding sites so that bacteria cannot remove it without being destroyed in the process.

“The new antibiotic interacts with essential residues of the NTP binding site that cannot be altered without losing RNA polymerase activity and bacterial viability,” he said. “Alterations of the NTP binding site that disrupt binding of the new antibiotic also disrupt RNA polymerase activity, resulting in dead bacteria, rather than resistant bacteria.”

The research team believes that pseudouridimycin is an extremely promising lead for antibacterial therapy, but further testing will be necessary before it can be perfected.

The full study has been published in Cell.

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