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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

PENNSYLVANIA: Avoiding the Superbug Apocalypses: New Antibiotic Being Developed Would Battle TB, Anthrax, And Food Poisoning


Medical Daily (06.03.2013)

Kenneth Keiler, professor at Penn State University, and colleagues are developing a new class of antibiotics to target bacteria in a new way. The researchers suggest that the drug may be a new weapon against drug-resistant TB, anthrax, and Shigella. In 1996, while a graduate student, Keiler discovered a pathway in bacteria that is important in protein creation. The process, called “trans-translation,” helps bacteria keep protein synthesis moving by removing faulty messenger RNA. Keiler hypothesized that a pharmaceutical chemical that could interrupt the process of bacterial production would be able to kill the difficult-to-treat bacteria easily. Also, since the process does not exist in plants, animals, or humans, a specifically targeted chemical would not have significant effects on an individual’s cells. The researchers planned to disturb trans-translation, which affects protein-synthesis and prevents organisms from replicating. The researchers used high-throughput screening of pharmaceutical compounds, which resulted in testing approximately 663,000 different molecules. They eventually narrowed down the candidate chemicals to 46 candidates that disrupted the trans-translation process in bacteria. Further testing of these chemicals with infectious bacteria showed that one molecule called KKL-35 could be considered “broad-spectrum.” KKL-35 specifically blocked trans-translation. The team investigated the potency of the drug on TB bacteria; it proved to be more than 100 times better at blocking bacterial growth than current antituberculosis drugs. Researchers also tested mutated strains of bacteria for susceptibility to KKL-35. According to Keiler, they found no mutant strains that were resistant to KKL-35. Further tests, including safety tests and animal and human trials, are needed. The full report, “Small Molecule Inhibitors of Trans-Translation Have Broad-Spectrum Antibiotic Activity,” was published online ahead of print in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, (2013; doi:10.1073/pnas.1302816110).


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Information in this article was accurate in June 10, 2013. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.