Northeastern University Researchers Find Powerful New Antibiotic

A team of scientists at Northeastern University-a Council member- has found a possible solution to the growing medical problem of “superbugs.” In a report published in the journal Nature, the team unveiled new technology which can help scientists grow antibiotics in a lab setting. They also revealed a promising antibiotic which they were able to harvest from this new device.

Many doctors and scientists fear that we are fast approaching a ‘post-antibiotic’ era, in which “superbugs” will evolve to resist current antibiotics, making common infections deadly. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly difficult for scientists to develop antibiotics because they typically don’t grow in lab settings. Northeastern professor Kim Lewis’ team found a way around this problem, the iChip, which holds antibiotics in a secure container while they grow in soil, their natural environment. The scientists found about 10,000 compounds using this method, identifying 25 new antibiotics. Only one antibiotic piqued their interest because of its ability to kill two common superbugs.  In further tests, they discovered that this antibiotic, which they call teixobactin, kills bacteria in a new way, by infecting the cell wall. Additional testing is necessary before Teixobactin can be declared safe for humans, but scientists are optimistic about the future of antibiotics as a result of its discovery.

“Now we can start changing our thinking about strategies for antibiotic discovery. So far, the strategy has been based on developing new antibiotics faster than the pathogens acquire resistance. Teixobactin presents a new opportunity to develop compounds that are essentially free of resistance– a more intelligent approach,” said Dr. Lewis.

The New England Council congratulates Dr. Lewis and Northeastern University on this incredible discovery and looks forward to more great scientific accomplishments from them.

Read more from Northeastern or read the full report from Nature.

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