Vancomycin 1.0 just got its successor, which is now stronger and better. Vancomycin has been used to fight infections like Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. But as the bacteria have been evolving, the effectiveness of antibiotics had degraded.
The researchers have now engineered more potent versions of the drug known as vancomycin 3.0, whose unique three-pronged approach to killing bacteria may give doctors a powerful new weapon against drug-resistant bacteria. Vancomycin is famously known as the drug of last resort.
It prevents bacteria from building cell walls. It binds to wall-building protein fragments called peptides, in particular, those that end with two copies of the amino acid D-alanine (D-ala). But now bacteria have evolved.
They now replace one D-ala with D-lactic acid (D-lac), sharply reducing vancomycin’s ability to bind to its target. Today, that resistance has spread so that dangerous infections like vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) and vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA) are becoming more common.
Boger and his colleagues have assembled all three weapons into one single vancomycin analog. This new antibiotic is at least 25,000 times more powerful against microbes, such as VRE and VRSA.
When they tested vancomycin-resistant bacteria against the new three-part analog, the microbes were unable to evolve resistance even after 50 rounds. Many antibiotics begin to fail after just a few rounds. This concludes that the new compound may be far more durable than the current antibiotic.
Usually, antibiotics are discovered by trial and error method when researchers test a new compound to see whether it stops bacterial growth or not. By contrast, this work shows the power of rationally designing novel antibiotics to hit microbes where they are weak. “Getting something to do two things by design is hard. Getting something to do three things by design is even harder.”
Still, the researchers warn that the new compound isn’t ready for human trials. They are planning to eliminate 30 chemical steps which require to make the compound in the hope of producing it at a cheaper rate. Once the permission to be used by human beings is guaranteed, one thing is for sure, the line of defense against deadly infection will be stronger than ever.