Scientists develop antibiotics to tackle drug-resistant superbugs


A team of scientists from Hong Kong have developed antibiotics that are reportedly powerful enough to kill the world’s strongest superbugs, which should be particularly helpful in the fight against MRSA

After the World Health Organization declared that drug resistance was one of the biggest threats facing global health back in 2019, much headway has since been made to try to combat this. The new family of antibiotics, which is currently under development by a team of bacteriologists from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, is said to be different from the existing form of antibiotics and, as such, has high potential to be developed into a new generation of antibiotics used to fight multi-drug resistant superbugs such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – more commonly known as MRSA.

Particularly in the hospitals and healthcare industry, MRSA infections are common among people who have weakened immune systems. Although the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that invasive MRSA infections that began in hospitals declined eight per cent between 2011 and 2013, they have not been eradicated, and can appear around surgical wounds or other invasive devises such as catheters.
Elsewhere, MRSA has also been known to affect communities in certain geographic regions via skin-to-skin contact.

Although most MRSA infections aren’t serious, some can be life-threatening. In some cases, particularly of those with weakened immune systems, the infection can lead to infected wounds or pneumonia.

While drugs currently on the market fight MRSA by disrupting the bacteria’s NDA synthesis of protein functions, the new drug focuses on inhibiting the interaction between the two proteins NusB and NusE, which in turn curbs bacterial cell proliferation. As such, the researchers have named the new class of compounds as ‘Nusbiarylins’, based on their target protein ‘NusB’ and their ‘biaryl’ structure. 

“Our findings so far are very promising,” said Dr Ma Fong, Assistant Professor in Applied Biology and Chemical Technology, who is leading the research team. “We believe further studies on these compounds will contribute to a new era of antibiotic discovery, contributing towards the fight against superbugs.”

Back in June, the scientists were commended for their pioneering work, and received the Global Innovation Award at the TechConnect World Innovation Conference and Expo 2019 in the US.