Bacteria have become more resistant to antibiotics, and this represents a problem as diseases will no longer be cured with the help of medicines. This is the reason why scientists have been trying to create or find new antibiotics that could help in the fight against superbugs.
A team of researchers, composed of scientist from three different universities: Brown, Emory, and Harvard, recently published their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that reveal that there is no need to create new antibiotics, but rather repurposing old drugs can help to destroy bacteria that became resistant to antibiotics. Such an example of a repurposed drug is bithionol, which was used until now to cure parasitic infections in horses.
The study has the main goal: to find a drug that was able to attack the membrane of the bacteria, the component of the bacteria that most of the antibiotics would not affect.
The researchers that conducted the study targeted the MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, the microorganism that can cause pneumonia and skin and blood infections. This infection is hazardous as it is comprised of germs named ‘persisters’ because they succeed in protecting against antibiotics by entering a dormant state.
Old Drugs Might Help Researchers Create Reliable Antibiotics Against Superbugs
The antibiotics are thus unable to attack superbugs. But by targeting the membrane of the bacteria and penetrating it, even though they are dormant or not, might help drugs have a better chance to destroy it.
Among 80,000 drugs that they tested, 185 drugs appeared to kill the MRSA bacteria, but only some of them succeeded to pierce through the membrane. One of these drugs is bithionol.
Bithionol, which was not used until now as an antibiotic, successfully killed the bacteria in just 24 hours, while other antibiotics could not. What bithionol does is to rip apart the bacteria completely, but it only affects them and not other cells.
After many more experiments, the scientist discovered that bithionol combined with gentamicin could eradicate 90% of MRSA infection. This discovery opened many possibilities for scientists to combine various drugs to create new purposes for them and to cure many ailments on which antibiotics did not affect.