Albicidin, ‘new weapon’ in antibiotic war against bacteria: Scientists
Scientists say albicidin has allowed them to create a powerful new range of antibacterial drugs.
A new plant toxin has been discovered by scientists and hailed by doctors for having a unique way in dispatching bacteria that could be useful in creating an effective new range of antibiotics.
The discovery matters now after years of warnings by doctors of the steady rise of multidrug-resistant pathogens, like E-Coli, which pose a dangerous threat to healthcare.
Albicidin, the new antibiotic, fights bacteria in a totally different way to existing drugs, a group of British, Polish, and German scientists have recently revealed in a paper published in the journal Nature Catalysis.
“We could not elicit any resistance towards albicidin in the laboratory,” said Dmitry Ghilarov, whose research group is based at the John Innes Centre in Norwich.
“That is why we are really excited – because we think it will be very hard for bacteria to evolve resistance against albicidin-derived antibiotics,” he added.
Xanthomonas albilineans, a bacterial plant pathogen?
A bacterial plant pathogen, Xanthomonas albilineans, is responsible for the production of Albicidin. The plant is known to cause a devastating disease in sugarcane, called leaf scald. The pathogen uses albicidin to attack the plant, but several decades ago, it was also found that it was highly effective at killing bacteria.
“The problem was that, at the time, we did not know exactly how albicidin attacked bacteria and so we could not use it as the basis of new antibiotics because these might have triggered all sorts of complications in the human body,” said Ghilarov, adding that they had to precisely determine how it killed bacteria, something they have just recently achieved.
Ghilarov and his team used a group of advanced techniques to find out how albicidin kills.
“Now we have a structural understanding, we can create modifications of albicidin to improve its efficacy and pharmacological properties,” said Ghilarov. “We believe this is one of the most exciting new antibiotic candidates in many years. It has extremely high effectiveness in small concentrations and is highly potent against pathogenic bacteria – even those resistant to the widely used antibiotics such as fluoroquinolones.”
Antibiotic resistance, biggest menace to global health and food security
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of antibiotic resistance as it has become one of global health and food security's biggest menaces. The random overuse of antibiotics has led bacteria to develop resistance, causing the evolution of some strains of microbes that have become much more difficult to eradicate.
This has led to longer hospital stays and increased medical costs and deaths.
A recent study found that this problem is every day killing about 3,500 people; more than 1.2 million died in 2019 due to antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.
Prof Tony Maxwell from the John Innes Centre highlighted the lack of research and development into new antibiotics by pharmaceutical companies, saying that “New compounds used to come on the market all the time but that is no longer the case. Fewer and fewer big pharma companies are working on antibiotics and so fewer and fewer are being approved by western drug authorities. The problem is that you don’t make money out of antibiotics any more."
“On the other hand, there is nothing better for treating a bacterial disease than an antibiotic, so this work, which opens up a whole new range of drugs based on our new understanding of how albicidin works, has got to be good news. It may take years to create clinically effective versions but it does suggest we may have a new weapon in our armoury one day," he said.
Ghilarov backed this point, advising governments to step in, "as it did with vaccine development".