HK Scientists Develop Antibiotics Powerful Enough to Kill the World’s Strongest Superbugs


A team of bacteriologists from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University have made a medical breakthrough with a new class of antibiotics powerful enough to neutralize drug-resistant superbugs.

The team, led by Dr. Ma Fong, Assistant Professor in Applied Biology and Chemical Technology, is comprised of experts from PolyU and the Faculty of Medicine of The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“Our research is now in the stage of animal studies, conducting infectious model studies and pharmacokinetic studies. These are the critical steps preceding clinical trials on humans for drug development. At this moment, there are very few antibiotic-related studies being able to complete such stage worldwide,” said Dr. Ma.

Image via The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

“Our findings so far are very promising,” Ma added. “We believe further studies on these compounds will contribute to a new era of antibiotic discovery, contributing towards the fight against superbugs.”

This new family of antibiotics is said to be different from the existing form of antibiotics and have high potential to be developed into a new generation of antibiotics used to fight multi-drug resistant superbugs such as MRSA — methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which has previously been near impossible to treat.

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The majority of antibiotics currently available on the market fight against bacteria by disrupting its DNA synthesis or protein functions. The new drug, on the other hand, focuses on inhibiting the interaction between the two proteins NusB and NusE, which in turn curbs bacterial cell proliferation.

Image via The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

The researchers have named the new class of compounds as “Nusbiarylins,” based on their target protein “NusB” and their “biaryl” structure. The pre-clinical studies have shown that Nusbiarylins proved to have consistent antibacterial effectiveness against a panel of MRSA strains, making them more practical compared to the vancomycin, which is a commonly-used last resort antibiotic drug. Nusbiarylins is also said to be safe for injection, as well as for oral taking.

In 2019, the World Health Organization declared drug resistance to be one of the biggest threats to global health, with MRSA being one of the most serious concerns. If proven safe and effective for human use, this new class of antimicrobial agents could be a breakthrough in the battle against MRSA.

Image via The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

The team of scientists has already been awarded the “Global Innovation Award” at the TechConnect World Innovation Conference and Expo 2019, which was held in the U.S. in June.

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