Teixobactin is a new antibiotic that's discovery was announced in early 2015. This possible miracle drug is thought to have no reported resistance or side effects.
How do antibiotics work?
Generally antibiotics are used to treat infections by attacking bacteria in the body. It also manages to kill good bacteria, which eventually leads to an immunity imbalance. As the bacterium mutates and adapts, the body develops a resistance to it and multi-drug resistant bugs are created.
As a result, research and funding for antibiotics has declined because resistance is seen as inevitable. Instead pharmaceutical companies and scientists are seeking profit and endeavors in other types of drugs to treat chronic diseases.
In 2014 the World Health Organization announced that this century could see a post-antibiotic era, stemming from drug-resistant infections, unless a radical change occurs. The breakthrough discovery of Teixobactin could possibly be that change.
What makes Teixobactin different from other antibiotics?
This new antibiotic seemingly has little to no mammalian toxicity and effectively destroys the strains of dangerous patheons including Staphylococcus aureus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, bacillus anthracis and Clostridium difficile.
Unlike other antibiotics that tend to either attack bacterial cell walls or disturb the way the bacterial cell functions, Texiobactin works by binding to multiple sites of the lipid molecules that are used to form cell walls. This stops the bacterium reproducing and the cell wall weakens, collapses and eventually dies.
Ultimately this new class of compounds has the potential to impede the rate of resistance and therefore possibly shorten the course of treatment as well. Since the bacterium doesn't easily adapt to Texiobactin, it could take up to 30 years for resistance to build.
Additionally it is thought that chronic and drug resistant infections that usually require a blend of drugs as well as therapy could possibly be treated by Texiobactin alone.
How was Teixobactin discovered?
Researchers in Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts discovered Teixobactin in a sample of soil during a routine screening for antimicrobial material. Kim Lewis, a professor and co-founder of NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals, led the team. The private company owns the patent rights to Texiobactin, whose research was funded by German research agencies and the National Institutes of Health.
Traditionally antibiotics were produced using cultivatable bacteria but its limited supply triggered the development of synthetic methods. The team dealt with the issue by growing uncultured bacteria in a natural environment using a miniature device called an iChip, also known as an Isolation Chip.
What is the iChip?
The iChip provides researchers with the opportunity to study uncultured bacteria by isolating and growing single cells. For this reason alone, the development of the iChip is as exciting and innovative as the discovery of Texiobactin, if not more. It has since amassed 50,000 strains of uncultured bacteria of which 25 are new antibiotics. This revolutionary device is groundbreaking considering 99% of bacteria are unable to grow in existing conditions in laboratories.
How does the iChip actually work?
Bacteria can be cultivated by depositing diluted soil samples into small channels that are covered with a semi-permeable membrane. The membrane mimics environmental factors that nurture bacterial growth, allowing scientists to investigate a spectrum of bacterium that has never been grown in scientific labs before.
When can we expect Teixobactin?
Teixobactin is yet to go under human trials for at least another two years. Researchers hope that the positive results from the mice trials will be reflected in the human trials.
In comparison to the cost of the research, funding for bringing the drug into the market will be significantly higher. This will take a minimum of five years. Even then, the estimated time of delivery is based on the assumption that the clinical trials are successful and no problems are encountered that may disrupt the development process.
What are the precautions?
The positive results from the mice trials may not yield the same reaction from humans considering that less than 10% of compounds that pass animal testing make it into the market. Furthermore the mice were tested using intravenous injection and if this method is replicated with humans, it will be a more expensive approach than taking a pill.
Another concern is that despite Teixobactin being hailed as a miracle drug, it isn't effective against all bacteria, including E.coli. Researchers that are optimistically touting this new class of compounds as 'resistant free' are basing their findings purely on lab results. Teixobactin still needs to go through a series of trials to confirm its resilience and efficiency.
If it does enter the market, the issue of Teixobactin being overused and marketed irresponsibly may lead to the inevitable - resistance. Although we are years away from concrete solutions, Teixobactin is leading the way on battling the problem of antibiotic resistance.