The problem with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, MRSA, in hospitals and other medical institutions is well documented. Staphylococcus aureus bacteria is extremely common in the general population and is mostly harmless and easily treated, however, the over-use of antibiotics have led to the bacteria genetically altering so it is resistant to most common Methicillin anti-biotics (including most penicillin-based drugs). Currently, the first choice medicine for MRSA is trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, which has proved successful being cheap and showing little side effects. But a new strain of MRSA which is resistant to this drug has begun to spread around the world. Up to 30% of infections in sub-Saharan African are no longer responding to it, and there have been a significant number of cases reported in Europe and Asia as well.
Chemists at the University of Connecticut are working on new experimental antibiotics which involve disrupting a vital enzyme pathway. Due to the nature of how this works, it also means that the chances of the bacteria becoming resistant in the future are much smaller. Vitamin B9 (known as Folate) is crucial to all cells, including in humans. The scientists studied the molecular structure of the specific enzyme responsible for using the Vitamin and have now designed a new version of an antibiotic known as an antifolate. It is made in such a way that it binds itself to the enzyme blocking the pathway and the bacteria then dies. And even if the enzyme tries to evolve to overcome this binding agent then the changes it would have to make would render it useless anyway. Studies carried out on samples of MRSA from different regions have so far proved incredibly successful. The research team involved are now collecting MRSA samples from all over the world to test and the new drug will hopefully get approval for full clinical trials later this year.