New class of drug could combat antibiotic resistance, study suggests

Anti-virulence drugs can treat infections without promoting the spread of resistance

Medicines that stop bacteria from harming their hosts, rather than killing them, could prevent bugs from evolving resistance to antibiotics, a review of research in the field by a team at Edinburgh University suggests.

The team has found that anti-virulence (AV) drugs – which work in a different way from antibiotics – could help curb the growing resistance of bacteria to antibiotic treatments.

Current treatments for infections aim to kill bacteria or stop them from growing, but this can drastically alter how the bugs evolve, and aid the survival of resistant strains.

AV drugs, on the other hand, can stop the parts of bacteria that make people ill from working without killing or harming them directly. By doing so, they can treat infections without promoting the spread of resistance.

Our findings reveal that there are opportunities to make real progress in the fight against antibiotic resistance

The University of Edinburgh team carried out a comprehensive review of research in the area over the last five years. Advances in drug discovery methods, together with positive results in clinical trials, indicate that AV drugs could provide an effective and potentially longer-lasting means of combating antibiotic resistance.

Findings from the study suggest the new medicines could work well either on their own or in combination with existing treatments.

Researcher Richard Allen, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences, said: 'Our findings reveal that there are opportunities to make real progress in the fight against antibiotic resistance. Gaining a greater understanding of how virulence affects bacterial growth in the host should aid us in our efforts to develop effective AV drugs.'

The study, published in the journal Nature Reviews Microbiology, involved collaboration with the University of Nottingham.

Funding was provided by the Wellcome Trust, the Royal Society, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Natural Environmental Research Council.

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