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Possible Antibiotic for MRSA Superbug 210

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the supersquishing-the-superbug dept.
darkmeridian writes "Merck has discovered a possible treatment for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, a virulent superbug resistant to many current antibiotics. The new compound, platensimycin, was found in a sample of South African soil and works by preventing the bacteria from assembling fatty acids into its cell membrane. This mechanism of action is novel among antibiotics, most of which currently block DNA assembly or protein assembly. Of course, this product still has to undergo human testing, but apparently looks promising."
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Possible Antibiotic for MRSA Superbug

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  • Source...code. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:37PM (#15363297)
    "The new compound, platensimycin, was found in a sample of South African soil and works by preventing the bacteria from assembling fatty acids into its cell membrane."

    Just one more reason for us to not destroy our environment.
  • Coming Soon (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:40PM (#15363306)
    ...platensimycin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or PRSA, a virulent superbug.
  • by reporter (666905) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:42PM (#15363314) Homepage
    For another perspective on this new antibiotic, read the article [sciam.com] by "Scientific American".

    Of course, a new antibiotic is never the final word in the war on bacteria. The introduction of this new antibiotic, platensimycin, provides yet another opportunity for bacteria to mutate and to develop defenses against it. Eventually, the bacteria will become resistant to platensimycin.

    What is not known is whether we can continuously develop new antibiotics that kill new antibiotic-resistant strains of germs and that will not kill human cells. As each successive generation of new antibiotics bombards the bacteria and as it adapts to the new medicines, will the bacteria become so powerful that it cannot be killed?

    When will Washington ban the feeding of antibiotics to cattle? I am referring to the use of antibiotics as a food supplement. It is insane.

  • Won't last long.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zcat_NZ (267672) <zcat@wired.net.nz> on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:45PM (#15363328) Homepage
    The first humans to start using this drug will probably take half of the prescribed course and stop as soon as they're feeling better, thus helping to evolve a new generation of superbug resistant to this 'superantibiotic'
  • by tehanu (682528) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:54PM (#15363364)

    An article in the most recent issue of Nature discusses this new antibiotic in more detail - the process by which it was discovered, its nature etc. The article however ends with a discussion that the chances of this antibiotic making it to the market is pretty low. First of all, it has to be tested to make sure it is stable (this apparently is a concern that has already risen in animal tests of the new antibiotic) and non-toxic to humans. However, even if the technical problems are resolved, financial problems - antibiotics are simply not profitable for pharmaceutical companies - may kill it. The reasons for the financial problems apply to antibiotics in general:

    - It is likely that this antibiotic if released into common use will "meet the fate of its predecessors" as bacteria rapidly require resistance to it. So the time span when it will under heavy demand will be short.
    - Regulatory hurdles. "the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have clear guidelines for approving new antibiotics" meaning the process is even more long and tedious than for normal drugs.
    - Antibiotics are only used for sparingly and only for a week or two.

    A quote:

    But "the next steps are fraught with danger", warns microbiologist Carl Nathan of Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York. "The obstacles are truly formidable."

  • by ParanoidCowboy (670365) on Friday May 19, 2006 @12:19AM (#15363447)
    It's called Vancomycin [wikipedia.org], and it's been around for a while. If the pharmacy doesn't stock that, Teicoplanin [wikipedia.org] will also work. Quite honestly, the MRSA is not exactly a superbug. For the most part, these organisms are caught in the hospital - proper handwashing and isolation should prevent most people from evening catching these bugs. The real "superbug" these days is Vancomycin Insensitive Staph Aureus (VISA) - organisms that require concentrations of vancomycin that come close to causing neprotoxicity (kidneys) and ototoxicity (ears) and who knows what else.
  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday May 19, 2006 @12:29AM (#15363471) Homepage Journal
    It seems to me if your flesh is being eaten away by an unstoppable bacteria, you're going to be pretty willing to test out a new antibiotic. Sometimes the FDA clinical trials process just isn't sensible.
  • Trust Merck? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by maggard (5579) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Friday May 19, 2006 @01:07AM (#15363595) Homepage Journal
    Frankly after the Vioxx debacle any science from Merck must be viewed with suspicion. The New England Journal of Medicine recently expressed, then re-expressed, well grounded serious concerns about ethics and veracity at Merck, concerns which continue to this day.

    There are many fine folks working at Merck. Unfortunately it is also obvious there are persons and practices, in research and management, that have compromised both good science and public health.

    Until there is a full accounting, and a house-cleaning, at Merck, I strongly urge everyone to regard statements from Merck with a greater degree of skepticism that they would regard other material from like businesses. Merck has an agenda, and that agenda has apparently not been one of honesty or integrity of late.

  • by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet@@@hotmail...com> on Friday May 19, 2006 @04:23AM (#15364113) Journal
    The first humans to start using this drug will probably take half of the prescribed course and stop as soon as they're feeling better...

    I'm actually hoping that the first humans to start using this drug will be receiving it from an IV bag and will remain anchored to their hospital beds.

    If a patient is carrying a bug that's resistant to all other commonly-used antibiotics, I don't really want them walking about on the street.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19, 2006 @04:24AM (#15364114)
    You can't patent a bacteriophage - ergo, no research.
  • by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet@@@hotmail...com> on Friday May 19, 2006 @04:31AM (#15364138) Journal
    It seems to me if your flesh is being eaten away by an unstoppable bacteria, you're going to be pretty willing to test out a new antibiotic. Sometimes the FDA clinical trials process just isn't sensible.

    The clinical trials process is there to protect people who are so desperate that they will try anything, sign anything, test anything. The alternative is to have a queue of snake-oil peddlers at the door of every dying person--"My pet theory is that weasel saliva contains powerful natural antimicrobials, so I'd like to put weasels down your pants and encourage them to bite you. It could be your only chance!"

  • Get a grip, people (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2 AT earthshod DOT co DOT uk> on Friday May 19, 2006 @04:32AM (#15364142)
    MRSA is a variant of common-or-garden Staph that is resistant to most antibiotics. It's not, however, resistant to soap and hot water.

    The problem is that antibiotics are being badly misused. After about three days on penicillin, with two days to go, you start feeling OK again. Now, at this point, you may be tempted to stop taking the stuff. That is the worst thing you can do. Your immune system has recovered a bit, and is now just about strong enough to fight off the bacteria. However, unless you can be sure that you have killed every last one of the germs, there is still a chance that they might breed. And the ones that survived the onslaught of penicillin are going to pass on the "double-hard bastard" gene to their own offspring. So you need to complete the course, using your own recovered immune system with penicillin as backup, in order to deal with the superbugs.

    People failing to finish courses of antibiotics are costing the National Health Service {and by extension the taxpayer} money. In fact, penicillin {or the artificially-manufactured equivalent, Amoxil} isn't used so much anymore because there are resistant strains of so many bacteria. My cruel side thinks it's a shame you can't ROLLBACK a medical treatment and leave people sick if they don't complete the treatment properly .....

    On the other side of the coin, if you keep taking penicillin for too long, your immune system will eventually stop trying so hard {and again you'll be breeding penicillin-resistant bugs}. Plus, the stuff isn't any respector of the essential bacteria in your body. Too many antibiotics passing through your system might even kill some of the essential bacteria in your septic tank, causing it to smell and making you unpopular with the neighbours.
  • by aswang (92825) <aswang@fatoprofugus . n et> on Friday May 19, 2006 @06:58AM (#15364502) Homepage
    The thing is, most of us do harbor extremely resistant organisms in our gut and on our skin. For one thing, community-acquired MRSA has a prevalence of upwards of 30% in some communities. But most of us are loaded with things like Actinobacter and Stenotrophomonas which usually aren't bad actors until we get pumped full of antibiotics that wipe out the rest of our normal flora that keep them in check, so that these multi-drug resistant organisms are all that are left floating around in our bloodstream, free to frolic and play.

    Because hospitals are nothing but incubators for antibiotic resistance, physicians actually do their best to try to get their patient out of there as fast as humanly possible, and sometimes this means sending people home with home nursing to get their 14 or 21 or 28 day course of vancomycin instead of sitting around on the ward letting their bacteria exchange plasmids with the bacteria on the other patients, in the walls, crawling all over the equipment, and (probably in the highest concentrations) in the computer keyboards that the hospital staff use.

    But the biggest lesson: don't rely on antibiotics to kill virulent bacteria. The best defense is washing your hands frequently.

  • by Znork (31774) on Friday May 19, 2006 @07:48AM (#15364693)
    "Do we need an outright epidemic to get people to realize the threat of emerging infectious diseases?"

    Nah. We need to redesign the financing structure of pharmaceutical development so research is profitable by itself, and the production/marketing/administration of the pharmaceuticals has to play by competetive market rules. Funding models comparable to other public-interest development would be far more appropriate than the current monopoly incentive.

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