Scientists find new antibiotics that kill bacteria in two minutes

Researchers at the Universities of Bath and Warwick are developing a new antibiotic that can kill bacteria in two minutes.

They have made a synthetic compound that kills the bacteria by binding to its DNA, making it coil up and prevent it from working properly.

The DNA binding properties of the compound were discovered at the University of Warwick by Professor Mike Hannon and Professor Alison Rodger (Professor Mike Hannon is now at the University of Birmingham).

Initially the researchers focused on the application of this useful property for targeting the DNA of cancer cells, however the team quickly realised that it might also be a clever way of targeting drug-resistant bacteria.

Dr Albert Bolhuis, from the University of Bath's Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology, and Dr Adair Richards, from the University of Warwick, tested how good and how fast the compound kills bacteria, and they discovered that the compound has indeed antibacterial activity.

Strikingly, they found that the compound quickly bound to its intended target (the bacteria's DNA) and killed virtually every cell within two minutes of being added.

Dr Adair Richards from the University of Warwick said: "This research will assist the design of new compounds that can attack bacteria in a highly effective way which gets around the methods bacteria have developed to resist our current antibacterial drugs.

"As this antibiotic compound operates by targeting DNA, it should avoid all current resistance mechanisms of multi-drug resistant bacteria such as MRSA."

Dr Bolhuis added: "One of the biggest problems facing healthcare is the ever increasing resistance to antibiotics, which makes treatment of bacterial infections more and more problematic.

"There is an urgent need for antibiotics that kill bacteria in novel ways. Although a lot of work still needs to be done, the compound that we analysed in this study holds a lot of promise and may lead to a completely new class of antibiotics."

The research has been published in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents.

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