Canadian scientists develop new antibiotic that prevents cell division

Older antibiotics like penicillin kill bacteria by preventing their cell wall from being built in the first place

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 14 February 2020
Canadian scientists have discovered a new group of antibiotic that prevents cell division. Photo: Pixabay

A new group of antibiotics has been discovered by scientists at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, that can be useful in the battle against antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Corbomycin and complestatin work by prevent the bacterial wall from being broken down, thus stopping the division of bacterial cells.

This, the scientists said, was in contrast to older antibiotics like penicillin that kill bacteria by preventing the wall from being built in the first place.

“Bacteria have a wall around the outside of their cells that gives them shape and is a source of strength,” study author Beth Culp, a PhD candidate at McMaster University, was quoted as saying in media reports.

For their research, the scientists studied a class of antibiotics called glycopeptides that are produced by bacteria found in the soil. They studied the genes of those members that lacked known resistance mechanisms.

“We hypothesised that if the genes that made these antibiotics were different, maybe the way they killed the bacteria was also different,” Culp was quoted as saying.

Using cell imaging techniques, the group found that the antibiotics functioned by attacking the bacterial cell wall. They came across the new corbomycin and the lesser-known complestatin.

The researchers were able to demonstrate that these antibiotics were able to block infections in mice by a group of drug-resistant bacteria known as Staphylococcus aureus. This class of bacteria is known to cause serious infections.

AMR is a global public health threat, according to the World Health Organization. Misuse of antibiotics in humans, animals, and aquaculture contributes to AMR. Also, poor management of waste from farms, factories, healthcare settings and households adds to the problem.

On July 26, 2019, Madhya Pradesh became the second state in India after Kerala to develop an action plan to manage AMR.

Experts from 10 African countries met in Lusaka, Zambia on January 22-24, 2020, to figure out ways to tackle AMR. Asia and Africa will account for 88.8 per cent of deaths from AMR in the future.

The findings of the study about the discovery of the new class of antibiotics were published in Nature on February 12, 2020.

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