As society has evolved, so have germs. Millions of people die prematurely every year due to illnesses and complications caused by bacteria.These days, with overuse and abuse of antibiotics, microbes are evolving and getting more and more difficult to fight against.
Now, a new class of antibiotics have been discovered that could make a huge difference in disease control. Its name: Teixobactin. This antibiotic has been shown in lab tests to kill many types of drug-resistant bacteria in lab mice. Among these bacteria are Clostridium difficile colitis (C. dif) which is commonly implicated in gut disease, as well as the species that cause tubercolosis, septicaemia, staph infection and strep throat.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Teixobactin is that it got rid of these infections not only completely, but without any noticeable side effects whatsoever. It even outperformed Vancomycin, which is the antibiotic currently most used in the treatment of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) by over a hundred times.
Another exciting thing about this new antibiotic is the way in which it was discovered. Traditionally, antibiotic discoveries happen by mining and isolating the lethal compounds that bacteria and fungi release to protect themselves against other microbes. However, 99% of these germs cannot be grown in laboratories. In the case of Teixobactin, the research team used a device they created called the iChip, which cultures bacteria in their natural habitats (dirt) instead of a lab. When the iChip was removed from the ground, scientists were able to isolate the natural antibiotic producing bacteria by layering other pathogens on top of the iChip and observing which bugs killed those pathogens off.
Using this method, 25 new antibiotic compounds were actually discovered, and Teixobactin became the clear winner of the bunch very quickly, as it appears to prevent microbes from developing any kind of resistance by obstructing cell wall construction – which means widespread death for the microbes. With no survivors, there can be no resistance. Kim Lewis, lead researcher and director of the Antimicrobial Discovery Center at Northeastern University said,
My guess is that if resistance is going to develop against Teixobactin, it will take up to 30 years for that to occur.
It will be awhile before Teixobactin is ready to be on the market, as vigorous testing and trials still need to be performed. But this discovery promises to be the tip of the iceberg on manipulating natural microbes to win the struggle between man and germs.