Agilent Contributes to an Antibiotic Breakthrough

An Agilent HPLC, LC/MS/MS and MassHunter software have helped scientists discover the first new class of antibiotics in 25 years.  The announcement was made this month by a joint team of researchers from Northeastern University in Boston, the National Institutes of Health and the German government.

Last year, the World Health Organization published a sobering report on the future of medicine.  Bacteria, parasites and fungi are becoming increasingly resistant to all known antibiotics.  Within decades, even routine surgical procedures could become impossible as patients increasingly die from drug-resistant infections.  The report warns that “a post-antibiotic era – in which common infections and minor injuries can kill – is a very real possibility for the 21st Century.”

One problem is that current antibiotics are overprescribed and overused, leading to increased antimicrobial resistance.  Another problem is a lack of new antibiotics entering the market.

While most antibiotics are developed from bacteria or fungi in soil, only 1 percent of those microorganisms can be grown under laboratory conditions.  But scientists have developed a new method for growing the other 99 percent.  IChip (isolation chip) uses fine membranes to isolate individual microbes while still allowing them to receive chemical nutrients.

Among the 25 compounds recently discovered using the iChip technique, teixobactin is the most promising.  This new antibiotic works by attacking the cell walls of bacteria, blocking their ability to reproduce or mutate.  Experiments on mice show that teixobactin can kill such “superbugs” as MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) and tuberculosis, which have become increasingly drug resistant.

The researchers used Agilent equipment to analyze the pharmaceutical effects of teixobactin on the test mice.  The new antibiotic was able to kill pathogens “without detectable resistance.”

It will be several years before these new antibiotics are approved for human use.  But researchers hope that iChip will lead to an explosion of new candidates.

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