US scientists develop revolutionary new treatment that could fight drug-resistant bacteria – and save 1 million lives every year
- A team at Peptilogics has developed a drug that can combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria
- The drug PLG0206 also fights bacterial and fungal strains in a way that prevents them from defending further mutated.
- Experts fear about 50 million people will die from antibiotic-resistant infections between now and 2050
- The CDC warned earlier this year that drug-resistant infections increased by 60% during the pandemic
Scientists have developed a potentially unprecedented drug that could solve the issue of drug-resistant bacteria – and save more than a million lives globally each year.
Peptilogics, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania biotechnology firm, last week published the results of tests for its new drug PLG0206, showing it can defeat drug-resistant infections in both laboratory environments and in animals. Importantly, this did not prompt the bacteria to mutate further in a way that would allow it to acquire greater resistance.
While it may still be a long way from treating drug-resistant infections in humans, scientists hope they have taken an important first step in finding a solution to one of the world’s emerging medical woes.
Antibiotic infections have emerged in recent decades since the widespread overuse of drugs at the turn of the century. Experts estimate that diseases will cause 50 million deaths globally before 2050, and are currently responsible for more than a million deaths each year.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that the spread of these diseases has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The scientist engineered the peptide drug PLG0206 using a chain of amino acids. It showed promise in fighting drug-resistant bacterial infections in the laboratory and in animal samples
PLG0206 is an antimicrobial drug specifically targeted at antibiotic-resistant infections that have emerged in recent decades.
It is a peptide, made using a chain of amino acids. These types of drugs are commonly used in medicine.
Antimicrobials have been used for years, with antibiotics themselves falling into the same class of drugs.
One issue that has arisen is that bacteria and fungi are highly evolved, and can mutate in ways that make them resistant to a drug designed to fight them.
CDC warns that the prevalence of drug-resistant bacterial infections has increased by 60% during the COVID-19 pandemic
Bacterial and fungal infections that are resistant to the standard drug spike during the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC revealed Tuesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unveiled a special report that shares the US impact of antimicrobial resistance, sharing the startling rise in infections and deaths caused by these diseases during the pandemic.
Overall, both infection deaths and infections deaths increased by about 15 percent during the first year of the pandemic, although this figure could be even higher as some data is incomplete.
For some specific infections – which are described in the report as increasing at an ‘alarming’ rate – the year-on-year increase was as high as 60 per cent.
The sharp rise of some bacterial and fungal infections is of great concern to health officials, who reported a sharp decline in these diseases in late 2010.
Antibiotics have existed for over 100 years, but rose to prominence especially in the 2000s.
Doctors collectively prescribed highly effective drugs, whereas earlier they were primarily seen as a last resort for many infections.
While they provided much-needed relief to the patients for whom they were prescribed, they also created another problem. Bacteria and fungi began to develop at the center of these infections.
This led to the emergence of dangerous infections such as carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter and C. auris. Although the symptoms of these infections can be managed by the authorities, there is no known effective treatment.
This has fueled research to find new classes of drugs that not only fight these resistant infections, but also do so in a way that would not propel them into further development.
Other alternatives have emerged in recent years, but they are often considered toxic to humans or not effective enough to be pursued.
PLG0206 is palatable to humans, and while it is extremely potent, it is not to the point where it is a danger to them. The drug can also make it in the kidneys, where it is metabolized for maximum effectiveness.
The researchers first tested the drug in a laboratory environment. PLG0206 was found to be able to fight infection in sheep blood cells.
It then proceeded to animals. In a trial of rabbits, which were implanted with metal joint devices that often cause infections in humans, the drug was able to prevent bacterial cultures from forming in 75 percent of cases.
For comparison, every rabbit treated with a common antibiotic alone died as a result of the infection.
The drug was also able to cure E. coli mice, when subsequent autopsies on rodents found no traces of infection.
Last July, the drug received approval for the Food and Drug Administration’s Fast Track program, which could streamline its review process if the data is ever submitted to regulators for approval.
This submission may still be far away, however, as human trials for a drug using PLG0206 as an active ingredient have yet to begin.