Innovation That Matters

| Photo source NUS Institute for Functional Intelligent Materials

A new antibiotic tackles stubborn lung infections

Health & Wellbeing

Could the novel agent also be used to treat other drug-resistant illnesses?

Spotted: The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as one of the biggest health threats, with bacterial AMR being the direct cause of 1.27 million deaths around the world in 2019

Finding ways to tackle AMR is the goal of many health researchers around the world, and scientists at the National University of Singapore (NUS) may have made a breakthrough when it comes to fighting Mycobacterium abscessus, a non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) infection that commonly impacts the lungs.

Non-tuberculous mycobacteria have extremely thick membranes and are so resistant that they can often survive multiple rounds of treatment. In response, the team at NUS, led by Professor Guillermo Bazan, has designed a new conjugated oligoelectrolyte (COE) based compound called COE-PNH2.

Simultaneously, the novel agent damages the mycobacteria’s membrane and obstructs important bioenergetic pathways. Notably, COE-PNH2 tackles both active and dormant bacteria, making it much less likely for any to survive and for a patient to suffer a relapse. In in-vivo studies, COE-PNH2 was shown to significantly reduce bacterial load without triggering the appearance of more resistant bacterial strains.

Although the results are very promising, the researchers reaffirm that the study of COE antibiotics is still in progress, with further tests needed to prove for certain their effectiveness, safety, ease of administration, and potential future uses.

Because of the increasing threat of AMR, many scientists are coming up with innovative ways to combat it, including with ‘nano-robots’ and precision antibiotics.

Written By: Lauryn Berry and Matilda Cox




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