Attacking Superbugs With New Drug Cocktails

A Singaporean team has discovered new ways to enhance the efficacy of drugs used to treat respiratory infections and antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

AsianScientist (Sep. 18, 2014) – A Singaporean research team has developed a new combination of drugs to combat common respiratory system infections and pulmonary diseases—such as pneumonia and cystic fibrosis—which are linked to bacterial pathogens.

Acute upper respiratory tract infections, which include the common flu, were reported to be among the top four conditions diagnosed at Singapore’s public clinics for eight consecutive years, from 2006 to 2013. Pneumonia on the other hand, was the second leading cause of death in Singapore in 2012, contributing to 16.8 per cent of the total number of deaths from illnesses behind cancer.

Antibiotic resistance is a challenge in the treatment of such diseases, as bacteria continuously mutate and develop resistance against the multiple drugs designed to kill them, evolving into so-called “superbugs”. These include the bacterial agents behind pneumonia and meningitis.

A Singaporean team of five researchers and clinicians led by Dr. Desmond Heng, of the Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences, has developed four new drug formulations of antibiotics and muco-active agents to destroy these multi-drug resistant strains. They were shown to clear mucus buildup, disrupt the cell-to-cell communication that is essential for bacterial growth and directly kill pathogenic bacteria.

Tests also indicate that the drug formulations work twice as fast as premium antibiotics, and that they kill more multi-drug resistant bacteria than a single drug. Their greater efficacy drug formulations would allow doctors to prescribe smaller, more effective drug doses to treat patients.

In addition, the combinations developed by ICES team can be inhaled by the patient directly, allowing a higher concentration of medicine to reach the lungs compared to injections or orally-administered drugs.

“Novel ways to deliver antibiotics to kill bacteria in the lungs and airways are important at a time when the population is aging and more people are expected to suffer from different kinds of respiratory infections in future,” said Associate Professor Raymond Lin of National University Hospital, Singapore.

“The global spread of antibiotic resistance in bacteria means that new solutions to tackling them are urgently needed, both to effect better cure and to prevent the rise of multi-drug resistance. The next crucial step will be to translate laboratory findings to clinical application.”

Dr. Heng added: “Making the formulation inhalable and portable not only delivers a higher concentration of the drug to the lungs but also gives the added potential to be an effective out-patient treatment alternative. Furthermore, if the disease is well-controlled in an outpatient setting with no further progression, costly hospitalization can be avoided.”

Buoyed by the results from the laboratory tests, the team is looking to move into clinical trials to test the stability and efficiency of their new drug formulations.


Source: Agency for Science, Technology and Research.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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