Squashing the superbugs

William Lou
October 4, 2014
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

By: Anna Goshua

McMaster researchers have discovered that an anticonvulsant drug may be the key to fighting antibiotic resistant infections.

In Canada alone, an average of 22 hospitalized patients die every day as a result of acquiring antibiotic resistant infections. These “superbugs” are resistant to many medications and have grown increasingly prevalent. Though well over 100 antibiotics exist, their collective mechanisms of action boil down to one of the following: kill the bacteria, or stop its multiplication.

A group of McMaster scientists have discovered a potential new class of antibiotics that stop a part of the bacteria from being produced at all.

In a study led by Eric Brown, a professor of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, a vast array of drugs were tested for how they affected ribosomes in bacteria. Ribosomes are critical to the function of a cell, as they are responsible for generating proteins.

The study found that lamotrigine, an anticonvulsant, is a chemical inhibitor that stops ribosomes from being produced in bacteria.

“Ribosome-inhibiting antibiotics have been routinely used for more than 50 years to treat bacterial infections, but inhibitors of bacterial ribosome assembly have waited to be discovered,” Brown said. “Such molecules would be an entirely new class of antibiotics, which would get around antibiotic resistance of many bacteria. We found lamotrigine works.”

Antibiotic resistance constitutes one of the biggest threats to global health, and is responsible for considerably lengthened periods of illness, higher mortality rates, and excessive medical care costs.

The discovery of lamotrigine’s hidden potential and the examination of its mechanism of action has led researchers to have a better grasp of how ribosomal assembly in bacteria works and how to formulate drugs to target that process.

While this research cannot address all the facets of the pandemic, it could allow for the rise of medications that can overcome the resistances that current bacterial strains have developed.

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