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Scientists Find Alternative to Antibiotics
Nov 12, 2014

In a major breakthrough, scientists have developed the first effective alternative to antibiotics that may aid the fight against drug-resistant infections. In a small patient trial, the drug was shown to be effective at eradicating the superbug Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). 

Researchers said it is unlikely that the infection could develop resistance against the new treatment, which is already available as a cream for skin infections. They hope to develop a pill or an injectable version of the drug within five years. The treatment marks a new era in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 

The treatment attacks infections in an entirely different way from conventional drugs and, unlike them, exclusively targets the Staphylococcus bacteria responsible for MRSA, and leaves other microbes unaffected. The approach is inspired by naturally occurring viruses that attack bacteria using enzymes called endolysins. It uses a 'designer' endolysin, Staphefekt, which the scientists engineered to latch on to the surface of bacteria cells and tear them apart. 

Conventional antibiotics need to reach the inside of the cell to work, and part of the reason they are becoming less effective is that certain strains of bacteria have evolved impenetrable membranes. By contrast, endolysins target basic building blocks on the outside of bacterial cells that are unlikely to change as infections genetically mutate over time.

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