Scientists Discover New Class of Antibiotic to Fight Drug-Resistant Superbugs

It’s a new class of antibiotic that promises to live up to its rough Latin translation: killer of bad guys.

In a report published this week in the journal Nature Microbiology, researchers describe a never-before-seen antibiotic agent that vanquished several strains of multidrug-resistant bacteria. In rats, the agent — which the researchers dubbed malacidin — attacked and broke down the cell walls of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and cleared the animals’ MRSA skin infections within a day.

Malacidin is short for metagenomic acidic lipopeptide antibiotic-cidins. (Also, “mal” means bad in Latin, and “cide” means to kill.) It is a distant relative of daptomycin, a powerful antibiotic that uses calcium to disrupt bacterial cell walls.

Malacidin appears to work differently than daptomycin, which was introduced in 2003 and has yet to be challenged by resistant bacteria. But scientists have reason to believe it will hold up at least as well. Even after 20 days of continued contact with malacidin — more than enough time for most bacteria to find a way to thwart an antibiotic’s effects — samples of MRSA bacteria showed no signs of evolving resistance to the newly discovered agent.

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