Monday, 10 November 2014

Endolysin drug spells end o' MRSA bug

[caption id="attachment_82" align="alignright" width="300"]MRSA Courtesy of the CDC. Image made available under Creative Commons Licence 2.0.[/caption]

A powerful new weapon in the fight against antibiotic resistant hospital bug MRSA was announced last week in London. Dutch biotech company, Micreos, unveiled results of their Staphefekt™ drug which specifically targets the disease-causing bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. The bacterium is unlikely to become resistant to Staphefekt™, unlike with antibiotic treatments, and its use in hospitals could mean a substantial reduction in MRSA-related fatalities.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria are becoming increasingly common, especially in hospitals. Of these heinous bacteria, they don’t come much more notorious than MRSA (a methicillin-resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus). Staphylococci, as you may have guessed, tend to cause so-called Staph infections. Skin diseases such as acne and eczema, as well as pneumonia and septic shock, can be caused by MRSA and S. aureus. Hospital patients, particularly those with underlying illnesses, are quite vulnerable to these infections.

Staphefekt™ was developed to specifically target S. aureus infections in the skin. What is intriguing about this antibacterial drug is that it’s not an antibiotic – it’s an endolysin. Endolysins are isolated from bacteriophages, the natural enemy of bacteria. These endolysins can be specific to a single strain and target extremely conserved structures in the bacterial cell wall. Dr Bjorn Herpers, who was involved in the study, said, “As well as being less prone to resistance induction than antibiotics, endolysins destroy only their target bacterial species, leaving the beneficial bacteria alone.”

The results presented at EuroSciCon in London last week are the first tests of Staphefekt™ specifically used on MRSA strains. The effects are promising, despite the small study size. Perhaps the most heartening finding was that the MRSA strains did not develop resistance to Staphefekt over time, unlike with antibiotics. Micreos CEO Mark Offerhaus commented, “With the introduction of Staphefekt™, we enter a new era in the fight against antibiotic resistant bacteria, targeting only the unwanted bacteria. This is a far more logical and elegant approach. Millions of people stand to benefit. That’s very exciting and gratifying.”

Staphefekt™ is already on the market in Micreos’s Gladskin range and optimised versions of the drug for MRSA treatment are in development. Annual deaths from MRSA number in the tens of thousands in the US and EU, and could be many more in indirect fatalities. These positive findings on Staphefekt™ may yield new investment into novel antibacterial research – something that is desperately needed as antibiotic resistance spreads.

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