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New Technology Identifies Antibiotics To Treat Drug-Resistant Infections

Posted Monday, January 2, 2017 by Gene Moen

A recent article in the journal Emerging Microbes & Infections reports on new technology developed by researchers at the National Institutes of Health to deal with drug-resistant infections. Infections with multidrug-resistant (MDR) organisms have emerged as a major public health crisis, with two million infections and an estimated 23,000 deaths in the United States annually. Most people are familiar with MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), which used to be only a hospital-based infection but is now also recognized as a community-acquired infection. But the number of such drug-resistant infections has grown over the past decade. Treating them is a continuous and increasing problem for physicians.

The incidence is increasing, partly due to the selective pressure from widespread use of antibiotics in both humans and animals. In the past, many physicians routinely prescribed antibiotics for relatively minor infections, sometimes even for viral illnesses where antibiotics would have no benefit, because patients were insistent on getting them. The current trend is to sharply limit such prescriptions to avoid the development of yet more drug-resistant organisms.

Current treatment of bacterial infections commonly requires broad-spectrum antibiotics until a pathogen can be isolated, identified and antimicrobial susceptibility testing performed, which can take several days. The research described in the recent article described a new way to identify drugs and drug combinations that may be useful in combating drug-resistant organisms. The new screening method uses a potential new approach to repurpose known drugs and compounds to deal with such infections, especially those that are hospital-borne.

In the research study screening covered 4,000 approved drugs and compounds, and identified 25 that suppress the growth of two drug-resistant strains of Klebsiella pneumonia that have become resistant to most major types of antibiotics. Klebsiella pneumonia has become a source of fatal infections in many hospitals across the country. This new approach is now being utilized to identify more drug combinations to treat other drug-resistant infections.

The article noted that “the results demonstrate that this new assay has potential as a real-time method to identify new drugs and effective drug combinations to combat severe clinical infections with MDR organisms.”

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