New Compound Discovered that Kills Antibiotic-Resistant Microbes

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Researchers at the University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK, have discovered and developed a new compound that can kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including Escherichia coli.

A new compound developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK, has been shown during tests to kill antibiotic-resistant gram-negative bacteria, including Escherichia coli. (E. coli), according to a university press release issued on May 28, 2019.

The research, published in the journal ACS Nano, describes the new compound which kills gram-negative E. coli, including a multi-drug resistant pathogen said to be responsible for millions of antibiotic resistant infections worldwide annually.  The new compound, which visualizes and kills antibiotic-resistant microbes, was discovered by scientists at the University of Sheffield and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL). Their studies have shown that the compound seems to have several modes of action, making it more difficult for resistance to emerge in the bacteria. The next step of the research will be to test it against other multi-resistant bacteria.

The new compound offers a range of possibilities. “As the compound is luminescent, it glows when exposed to light. This means the uptake and effect on bacteria can be followed by the advanced microscope techniques available at RAL,” said Professor Jim Thomas from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Chemistry . “This breakthrough could lead to vital new treatments to life-threatening superbugs and the growing risk posed by antimicrobial resistance.”

New treatments for gram-negative bacteria are vital because they are rapidly becoming immune to current drugs. Antimicrobial resistance is already responsible for 25,000 deaths in the European Union (EU) each year, the university reports in its press release. The research could pave the way for new treatment of these life-threatening microbes.


The team, led by Thomas, is testing new compounds developed by his PhD student, Kirsty Smitten, on antibiotic-resistant gram-negative bacteria, including the pathogenic E. coli.

Gram-negative bacteria strains can cause infections such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and bloodstream infections. They are difficult to treat because the cell wall of the bacteria prevents drugs from entering the microbe, and there has not been a new treatment for gram-negative bacteria in the last 50 years, according to the university. In addition, no potential drugs have entered clinical trials since 2010, the university reports.

In a recent report on antimicrobial resistant pathogens, the World Health Organization put several gram-negative bacteria at the top of its list, stating that new treatments for these bacteria were “priority 1 critical” because they cause infections with high death rates, are rapidly becoming resistant to all present treatments, and are often picked up in hospitals, the university cites in its press release.

Source: The University of Sheffield