Hongmin Sun, PhD, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Missouri.
Researchers have discovered a promising alternative to common antibiotics used to fight the bacteria that causes strep throat. In an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists discussed how their discovery could fight the infection with a reduced risk of antibiotic resistance.
By screening tens of thousands of small molecules, the team from the University of Missouri and University of Michigan identified a class of chemical compounds that significantly reduced the severity of group A Streptococcus (GAS) bacteria infection in mice. Their work suggests that the compounds might have therapeutic value in the treatment of strep and similar infections that affect an estimated 700 million people around the world each year. The newly identified compounds could work with conventional antibiotics, such as commonly prescribed penicillin, and result in more effective treatment.
"We know that 70 percent of bacteria causing infections in the hospital are resistant to at least one of the drugs commonly used for treatment," says Hongmin Sun, PhD, the article's first author and an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Missouri. "Rather than killing off the bacteria, this new compound changes the behavior of the bacteria and makes it less harmful."
Current antibiotics interfere with critical biological processes in the pathogen to kill it or stop its growth. But at the same time, stronger strains of harmful bacteria can sometimes resist the treatment and flourish.
"The widespread occurrence of antibiotic resistance among human pathogens is a major public health problem," says David Ginsburg, MD, a professor of internal medicine, human genetics, and pediatrics at the University of Michigan and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.
Ginsburg and Sun collaborated on a research team that included Scott Larsen, PhD, research professor of medicinal chemistry and co-director of the Vahlteich Medicinal Chemistry Core at the University of Michigan's College of Pharmacy. Work on this project is continuing in Sun's lab at the University of Missouri and at the University of Michigan, including the preparation of new compounds with improved potency and the filing of patents, Larsen says.