One of the biggest challenges faced by medical science is how to treat infections caused by bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics. It is predicted that by 2050 an additional 10 million people will succumb to drug resistant infections each year. The development of new antibiotics, which are effective where other drugs fail, is therefore a crucial area of study.
Dr Ishwar Singh and researchers in the Schools of Pharmacy and Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln are taking significant steps towards developing antibiotics which can combat drug-resistant bugs.
The team is the first in the world to successfully create a simplified, synthesised form of teixobactin – a naturally-occurring antibiotic which has been hailed as ‘game-changing’ which is capable of killing drug resistant infections such as MRSA. They have used these synthesised versions to treat a bacterial infection in mice, demonstrating the first proof that such simplified versions of its real form could be used to treat real bacterial infection as the basis of a new drug.
The team at Lincoln achieved this by developing a library of synthetic versions of teixobactin, by replacing key amino acids at specific points in the antibiotic’s structure to make it easier to recreate. Their work exploring and developing this new generation antibiotic is part of a pioneering research effort to tackle antimicrobial resistance.
The team's work is now taking the next step forward thanks to a UK Government grant of almost £500,000. The £484,000 grant from the Department of Health and Social Care will see the team develop a catalogue of simplified synthetic versions. The creation of an arsenal of new synthetic teixobactin molecules is a vital step in drug development due to a high failure rate when scientists only have a limited number of molecules to work with. It is hoped the work will lead to the production of a drug that can be safetly tested on humans in clinical trials.
Dr Ishwar Singh
Antimicrobial resistance is spreading faster than the introduction of new antibiotics, which means there are major concerns about a possible health crisis. The recently discovered teixobactin has shown tremendous promise due to its potent activity, particularly against resistant pathogens such as MRSA, which is why it is the focus of important research here at Lincoln and around the world.
Most recently, the team pinpointed exactly which amino acid in the newly discovered teixobactin antibiotic makes it so successful at killing off harmful MRSA bacteria, which are resistant to many other antibiotics. They have now adapted this rare molecule so that it can be easily used in the production of new drugs. This breakthrough comes after the team successfully produced a number of synthetic strands of the highly potent antibiotic, and their ongoing work continues to overcome barriers in the race to combat drug resistant bacteria.
Meet the Expert
Dr Ishwar Singh,
School of Pharmacy
Dr Ishwar Singh is an organic chemist specialising in antimicrobials, chemical biology, and drug delivery.