GlaxoSmithKline Finds Compound That Could Help Fight 'Superbugs'

drugsGlaxoSmithKline (GSK) researchers announced Wednesday that they have found a new compound that may help in the fight against drug-resistant bacteria. The findings could ultimately assist scientists in developing new antibiotics to tackle what has been called one of the world's most pressing public health problems. Last year, a report from the American Academy of Microbiology called antibiotic resistance "an international pandemic," adding that "resistance essentially is uncontrollable."

Increased use of anti-bacteria drugs over the past 70 years has caused many microbes (bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses) to develop resistance to antimicrobial drugs. As a result, almost every type of bacteria has become stronger and less responsive to antibiotic treatment, and infectious diseases are increasingly difficult to treat.

Few Weapons Against Superbugs

Meanwhile, the number of available antibiotics is declining because many can no longer combat common diseases, such as tuberculosis, and there's a dire shortage of alternatives. Drug-resistant superbugs like Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) can't be stopped by traditional antibiotics, making penicillin and its derivatives increasingly obsolete.

Yet, Big Pharma hasn't put much effort and research dollars into the problem. The London School of Economics and Political Science warned about the lack of antibiotic research. Bloomberg reports that just three antibiotics have been cleared for sale by U.S. regulators in the past five years.

So it's not surprising that the Glaxo announcement generated quite some excitement. Glaxo said it captured a snapshot of a new compound, called GSK 299423, latched onto a certain enzyme in bacteria. Stopping this enzyme prevents the bacteria from reproducing.

Medicines, such as the quinolone group of drugs (an example is Bayer's Cipro), target the enzyme and have been successfully used as antibiotics since 1962. Even though bacteria are increasingly developing resistance to this class of drugs, the new experimental compound attaches to the enzyme in a different place to quinolones, enabling it to stop the same quinolone-resistant bacteria. The compound was potent on MRSA strains and gram-negative bacteria like E. Coli.

Long Road Ahead

The research, published in Nature, is the result of two collaborations between GSK, the Wellcome Trust's Seeding Drug Discovery initiative and the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

"We already knew that targeting this enzyme was clinically proven to stop bacteria in their tracks, we just needed to be a bit more inventive in how we attacked it," said Michael Gwynn, from GSK's Infectious Diseases research group.

Ted Bianco of the Wellcome Trust said: "This is an important step forward in the race against antibiotic resistance. By solving the new structure of this important bacterial enzyme, and understanding how these drugs work, the team has opened the door for targeted drug design of new antibiotics, which are urgently needed."

But while the study may give hope, the road ahead is long. First, scientists have to be able to develop a medicine from the compound, and only then can they begin early stage trials in humans. It's therefore far too early to predict future sales, but Bloomberg gives examples of two of the top-selling antibiotic brands: Pfizer's (PFE) Zyvox, which generated $1.1 billion in sales last year, and Cubicin, from Cubist Pharmaceuticals (CBST), which sold $538 million.

Rising Toll

New anti-bacteria drugs to combat the resistant superbugs couldn't come soon enough as the human and financial toll has been increasing. Between 5% and 10% of all hospital patients develop a drug-resistant infection, driving annual U.S. health-care costs up by about $5 billion, according to the NIH, as such patients are more likely to have longer hospital stays and may require more complicated treatment. And $1.1 billion is spent annually on unnecessary adult upper respiratory infection antibiotic prescriptions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 90,000 patients infected with drug-resistant bacteria die each year in the U.S. as a result of their infection, up from 13,300 patient deaths in 1992. Worldwide, bacterial and parasitic diseases are the second-leading cause of death.

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Think they'll charge an arm and a leg for it?. Wait! They charge us that for the stuff that doesn't work!

August 09 2010 at 12:24 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Seriously, you people are morons if you think Wheat grass, silver, ozone, or whatever other crazy things you use can treat MRSA or anything similar. The government says these "superbugs" are a serious threat because they are...because if you get them, there is a good chance that unless your immune system is in full working order (meaning if your obese, diabetic, a drug abuser, or have any other infections) you could die. Even with a perfect immune system you could die. These bugs produce numerous toxins that kill you in numerous ways...but what do I know...I only went to medical school. Please people, get a good doctor, make sure hes good, and trust him...

August 09 2010 at 12:09 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to kram2124's comment

Ya, leave this to wheat grass and green tea...,2933,598863,00.html?test=latestnews

August 09 2010 at 1:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark and Teri

Bacteria doesn't survive well in light. That given...drinking 1-2 oz. of Wheat Grass" (pure liquid Chlorafil), is a great antidote. Bacteria is like mold. It thrives in dark, damp places. Exposing it to sunshine or light and it has a hard time surviving. Green tea is another antidote. It's conponents are primarily made of "Catchicans". MRSA can not thrive well with this in the body either. I've had MRSA...both of these two taken together and the MRSA left!!!

August 09 2010 at 11:30 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mark and Teri's comment

Unfortunately, "wheat grass" "green tea" and "sunshine" have not been reduced to pill form, and advertised on tv direct to the public yet, so your suggestions dont seem to make - note the following experience
My autisic toddler was prescribe Amox..c.lian.. It triggered very serious allergies. After 2 weeks of horrible nights where she could not breathe, collodial silver knocked everything out in 24 hours.

August 09 2010 at 12:06 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I hope that I can help someone who has MRSA. I know some will find this totally crazy but people in my family has had MRSA. We used "silver" from a health food store and it cleared it up immediately, no outbreaks since. Please try it!!

August 09 2010 at 10:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If we stay away from building in the rain-forest,this would not be happening.But other countrys out there have something to do with all these "superbugs",that come and go to.It is just man-kind,causeing all this.We really need to stop.

August 09 2010 at 10:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You can;t get rid of the supebugs unless you shut the goverment's biological weapons programs down. Just research the works at Fort Detrick.The average american is at risk because we are the next to be exterminated just keep your eyes on the GOP an there tea party Bigots & Racist Lead by Adolf Palin

August 09 2010 at 9:26 AM Report abuse -8 rate up rate down Reply

barking up the wrong tree....ozone gas and UV light are 100% effective. Attack the organisms before they enter the body is the key. The problem is both these methods are too easy, cheap and will not garnish the profits for drug makers...ignorance plus greed equal exploitation.

August 09 2010 at 8:54 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ispectrumi's comment

Sure they are. But the problem is to attack the organisms AFTER they enter the body and before they cause irreversible damage or death. So, ozone and UV light are only preventatives. And. BTW, you do realize that ozone gas is considered to be an environmental polutant, don't you? Hence "ozone allert days" as we have here in New York.

August 09 2010 at 9:23 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Melly, you are a stock market writer. Please get someone with a clue to do the science writing. And get a grammar coach. You say "use ... have". argh. Then, later you state "a bacteria". Ma'am, bacteria is a plural noun. Bacteria ARE. A bacterium IS. Also, you list "bacteria, fungi, parasites, & viruses". Not all rectangles are squares. Not all bacteria & fungi are pathogens. A better list would have been : parasites such as viruses and pathogenic bacteria, fungi, and protozoans. Get it right or don't write.

August 09 2010 at 8:34 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ajl3324's comment

an outstanding comment----it makes my day !!

August 09 2010 at 9:04 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

The Bugs are winning ! Man's oldest enemy........they just want to take over and
eventually kill Mother the Nurse used to repeat this over and keep clean and watch what you touch and eat, Thanks Mom !

Oh, Thanks Glaxo !

August 09 2010 at 8:29 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

These big pharma companies would rather devote resources to such "critically important" drugs as those which deal with erectile dysfunction, etc.
When the quest for the almighty dollar is allowed to distort priorities, and when the medical community has known for decades that drugs were becoming increasingly resistant to those bacterial and other infections that cause death, for big pharma to devote resources into frivolous drugs such as the one I eluded to in the first sentence, is almost criminal.

August 09 2010 at 7:29 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jhall93307's comment

It's positively criminal, like the FDA, has nothing to do with concern for your health, everything about the money. And, still $billions to be made off the worthless crap they already have for sale. Try to get a refund when it doesn't work.

August 09 2010 at 11:36 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply