Sep 4 2005
In the fight against the infections invading hospitals both sides of the globe, scientists have developed a drug that destroys the defences of superbugs, raising hopes it could help quell the rampant and often lethal outbreaks that continue to strike hospitals.
Chemists have come up with a synthetic version of a class of drug called cephalosporin and they have found the drug killed a rare but highly dangerous variant of MRSA that is resistant not only to common antibiotics but also to vancomycin, which is considered the last line of defence against MRSA infections.
At present the tests have only been carried out with bacteria in petri dishes in the laboratory, but if the drug is effective in human trials, it could become a much-needed weapon in the fight against superbugs.
Shahriar Mobashery, a chemist at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, has said that they are the first to demonstrate this unique strategy, which could provide a new line of defence against the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.
MRSA, or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, is resistant to a range of antibiotics, but many patients are successfully treated with vancomycin.
However, scientists fear that in time, superbugs will also become resistant to vancomycin, leaving them nothing in their medical armoury to combat superbug infections.
Mobashery says that if vancomycin resistance becomes common, it will be a nightmare scenario in many ways.
At present thousands already die from MRSA and vancomycin is the last resort to tackle the infections.
Mark Enright, an MRSA expert at Imperial College London says if it stops working there's not much else to turn to.
Dr Enright has already found in a survey of eight countries, that some degree of vancomycin resistance already exists in MRSA.
Cephalosporin is believed to work by damaging the superbug's ability to build a cell wall that shields it from antibiotics.