A new form of antibiotic that kills bacteria in a way that prevents them from evolving resistance is being hailed as a breakthrough in the fight against disease.
Teixobactin appears to kill a wide range of bugs which current antibiotics are hopeless against.
In studies on mice, teixobactin was incredibly effective at eliminating Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumonia, which cause life-threatening blood and lung infections, reports the Guardian.
It works by destroying the bacteria’s ability to build their cell walls, instead of targeting bacterial proteins, like current medicines.
“That’s an Achilles’ heel for antibiotic attack,” says the drug’s discoverer, Tanja Schneiderof the University of Bonn. “It would take so much energy for the cell to modify this, I think it’s unlikely resistance will appear this way.”
Health authorities have been warning for years that antibiotics will one day be useless against disease. Last year the World Health Organisation said the world was entering the “post-antibiotic era”.
It could be years before teixobactin is available however. It hasn’t yet been tested on humans, and currently has to be delivered by injection.
It also doesn’t work against some deadly strains of bacteria, including E coli.
But the discovery – the biggest breakthrough in antibiotics in three decades – has given scientists new hope that the era of antibiotics isn’t over just yet. Teixobactin is just one of 25 new antibiotic compounds the researchers discovered.
“What most excites me is the tantalising prospect that this discovery is just the tip of the iceberg,” Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said.
“It may be that we will find more, perhaps many more, antibiotics using these latest techniques.”
The research was published in the latest edition of journal Nature.