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Possible New Class of Antibiotics Identified in an Old Drug
- Updated: September 23, 2014
Research conducted by the United States and Canada suggests that an existing anticonvulsant drug known as Lamotrigine could lead to a new class of antibiotics. A team of researchers from The Scripps Research Institute in California along with McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario reported this finding in the journal eLife.
According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance is a very serious threat to global health. They added that without having effective antimicrobial drugs available, a number of standard medical treatments will fail or become extremely high-risk procedures.
The problem is that infections caused by drug resistant microbes, commonly referred to as “superbugs” do not respond to antibiotics commonly prescribed. As a result, people experience longer periods of illness, increased risk of death, and higher costs of medical care. The UN health agency states that people who become infected with MRSA, which is a drug resistant bacterium, have approximately a 64% greater chance of dying than people with a non-resistant form of the same infection.
Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) are that every year in the United States, a minimum of two million people become ill because of a superbug infection and of those, at least 23,000 die.
Typically, antibiotics work by targeting a vital process in bacteria, which stops replication or production of essential proteins. From this new study, researchers discovered that Lamotrigine has the ability to stop bacteria from assembling ribosomes, the mechanism making it possible for bacteria to make proteins.
Lamotrigine is offered by GlaxoSmithKline under the brand name Lamictal. This anticonvulsant drug also works to stabilize mood and it helps in the treatment of bipolar disorder and epilepsy. However, researchers now believe Lamotrigine is capable of much more.
This study is the first to show that a drug can inhibit ribosomes in bacteria from being assembled. Many antibiotics currently available are effective because ribosomes are attacked but researchers were able to demonstrate that a drug can actually prevent ribosomes from being created at all.
Eric Brown, principal investigator and professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences at McMaster says that antibiotics that inhibit ribosome and used to treat bacterial infections have been used for 50 plus years but the discovery of inhibitors of bacterial ribosome assembly had not yet occurred. These molecules would be a completely new class of antibiotics and that researchers confirmed Lamotrigine works.
Included in the study findings is a description of how the exact place in the bacterial cell targeted by the drug was identified. With this, the experts gained a much better understanding of how ribosomes assembly but also, the biochemistry of how the process can be attacked with drugs.