New antibiotic could offer hope against antimicrobial resistance

Researchers from Imperial College London and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine have tested a new antibiotic, closthioamide, for the first time on gonorrhoea samples in the laboratory.

It is hoped that the drug, originally discovered in 2010, could eventually offer an alternative for current antibiotics that are becoming less effective against gonorrhoea.

The researchers tested 149 samples of N. gonorrhoeae from hospital patients with infections in the throat, urethra, cervix and rectum. They dicovered that at very low amounts, closthioamide was effective against 146 of 149 samples taken from patients, and against all of the samples provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which were known to be resistant to other antibiotics.

The bacteria which produce closthioamide naturally make only tiny amounts that are not enough to test or use, so the researchers chemically manufactured it by mimicking its natural structure.

Although closthioamide has still to be tested on animals and humans, the scientists say in a paper published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy that it could be an exciting new step in the fight against the disease.

Dr John Heap, lead author from Imperial’s Department of Life Sciences, said: “The imminent threat of untreatable antibiotic-resistant infectious diseases, including gonorrhoea, is a global problem for which we urgently need new antibiotics. This new finding might help us take the lead in the race against antimicrobial resistance.”

Victoria Miari, lead author from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “Antibiotic resistance, combined with the reduction of drug development, is one of the biggest health issues facing the world today. The problem threatens to render many human and animal infections untreatable, including gonorrhoea. With no effective vaccine available, new antibiotics are urgently needed to tackle this infection which, left untreated, can have very serious consequences.

“Results of our initial laboratory studies show that closthioamide has the potential to combat N. gonorrhoeae. Further research is needed, but its potential to successfully tackle this infection, as well as other bacteria, cannot be underestimated.”