A newly developed drug is utilizing a molecule that can kill bacteria that are resistant to most other common antibiotics. These deadly strains, often called superbugs, have emerged in the last few decades as more and more antibiotics are being used for a wide range of illnesses and in agriculture. Because of natural selection, the genes that allow these superbugs to survive are the ones passed down through generations. Additionally, since the life cycle of bacteria is so short, evolution takes place on a scale of just years. This poses a huge threat to humanity because we may start to see deadly outbreaks of previously curable diseases and easy-to-treat illnesses such as strep throat or UTIs.
This new drug uses a different tactic from other antiobiotics, which usually weaken the cell walls. Instead, it inhibits an enzyme in the cell membrane that helps to secrete proteins. When this enzyme is blocked, proteins are unable to be released and build up inside the cell membrane until the cell bursts. This technique has been tested on mice to be effective against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. Gram-negative bacteria, so called because of how they appear under a microscope when stained by crystal violet solution, are notoriously difficult to attack with antibiotics because of the microbes’ hard-to-penetrate cell membrane.
Since this is a completely different strategy, the bacteria don’t have natural resistances to combat the tactic – at least not for a few years. Bacteria are constantly evolving and will eventually develop resistance to this method as well, but the new drug aims to give us a head start in this arms race between humans and bacteria. Additionally, there is speculation that bacteria cannot be resistant to several types of treatments at once. This means that once a strain becomes immune to this new drug, they will once again become vulnerable to penicillin and other common antibiotics.