Washington D.C. [USA], Jan. 5 : Researchers have developed a new antibiotic which can be used to treat the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhoea, which has become highly drug-resistant strain.
The study was published in the journal MedChemComm.
Researchers from the University of York's Departments of Biology and Chemistry found that Neisseria gonorrhoeae is more sensitive to CO (carbon monoxide) - based toxicity than other model bacterial pathogens and may serve as a viable candidate for antimicrobial therapy using CO-RMs (carbon monoxide-releasing molecules).
"The carbon monoxide molecule targets the engine room, stopping the bacteria from respiring. Gonorrhoea only has one enzyme that needs inhibiting and then it can't respire oxygen and it dies," said Professor Ian Fairlamb, from the University's Department of Chemistry.
"People will be well aware that CO is a toxic molecule but that is at high concentrations. Here we are using very low concentrations which we know the bacteria are sensitive to," Fairlamb added.
The infection is the second most common sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
The team targeted the "engine room" of the bacteria using CO-RMs.
CO is produced naturally in the body, but there is increasing evidence that carbon monoxide enhances antibiotic action with huge potential for treating bacterial infections.
The CO molecule works by binding to the bacteria, preventing them from producing energy.
"We think our study is an important breakthrough. It isn't the final drug yet but it is pretty close to it," Fairlamb added.
"People might perceive gonorrhoea as a trivial bacterial infection, but the disease is becoming more dangerous and resistant to antibiotics."
"Antimicrobial resistance is a massive global problem which isn't going away. We need to use many different approaches, and the development of new drugs using bioinorganic chemistry is one crucial way we can tackle this problem, to control important bacterial pathogens before the current therapies stop working," said another researcher James Moir from the University's Department of Biology.
The researchers noted that the next stage is to develop a drug, either in the form of a pill or cream, so that the fundamental research findings can be translated on to future clinical trials.