The superheroes combating superbugs

Silhouettes of superheroes

A spin-out company has found a novel way to ‘shut down’ the genes that cause antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance is a terrifying prospect and one of the biggest threats facing global health, food security and development today. It occurs when bacteria change in response to antibiotics, becoming resistant and spreading, and is accelerated when antibiotics are misused or overused, or because of poor infection control and prevention.

The World Health Organization considers tackling this phenomenon to be a high priority and has implemented a global plan that seeks to improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance, strengthen surveillance and research, reduce the incidence of infection, optimise the use of antimicrobial medicines and ensure sustainable investment in countering resistance.

Research attention is being devoted to the cause, with scientists looking into potential new antibiotics and ways of combating resistance. A spin-out company ─ Procarta Biosystems ─ based in the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School in the UK, has found a novel way to ‘shut down’ the genes that cause antibiotic resistance. This involves a new type of antimicrobial that kills bacteria by blocking their gene expression. The UAE team hopes that new drugs that fight resistance by blocking genes could combat some of the world’s worst superbugs.

Until now, part of the solution has been to develop new antibiotics, however there has not been a new class of antibiotic since the 1980s

Procarta Biosystems Founder Professor Michael McArthur, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, commented on the research: “Antibiotics are important medicines needed to treat and prevent bacterial infections. They are very effective, but they also have a major weakness – bacteria acquire genes that protect them from the drug's attack. Until now, part of the solution has been to develop new antibiotics, however there has not been a new class of antibiotic since the 1980s. We want to revolutionise the treatment of serious and life-threatening infections in order to radically improve patient wellbeing and aid in the global fight against antibiotic resistance. Our aim is to create new drugs that shut down bacteria’s protective genes in order to stop antibiotic resistance. This is a paradigm shift in research, and we have made a significant breakthrough in the race to solve antibiotic resistance.”

The research is funded by CARB-X (Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator), a global partnership dedicated to accelerating early R&D to address the rising global threat of drug-resistant bacteria. It complements a recent investment from Novo Holding’s Repair Impact Fund.