By now, you’ve likely heard of “superbugs,” bacteria and viruses that are able to resist today’s major antibiotic and antiviral medications. They’re a scary problem that leads to two million infections and 23,000 deaths in the U.S. each year because we just don’t have antibiotics that can treat them.
Troublesome bacteria include serious staph infections (MRSA), tuberculosis (TB), E. coli, and Klebsiella, to name a few, and cause everything from skin infections to lung and urinary tract infections. Up to this point, the bacteria had seemed to be winning–able to develop resistance to even our best and newest antibiotics. However, a recent study in the journal Nature has added some great news to this otherwise concerning problem. Scientists have discovered a new way to develop antibiotics, and have lately identified one that was able to treat several strains of superbugs.
It’s important to note that these studies are still experimental–as in, they haven’t been tried in humans yet. The antibiotic has so far been tested in mice, and was able to cure infections of the skin and lungs. Also, it doesn’t treat every superbug species, but was effective against MRSA, streptococcus and tuberculosis.
One of the most interesting (and promising) things about this new antibiotic is that it kills bacteria via a method that makes it very difficult for the bacteria to develop resistance to it. That feature alone makes it different from the vast majority of our historic antibiotics, against which bacteria have been able to mutate and eventually become resistant. If that stays true, it will certainly be a huge paradigm shift in the use and discovery of new antibiotics.
Don’t call it a “superdrug” yet. There are still years of testing in humans for both safety and efficacy. However, you can bet that I–and every other doctor challenged with treating superbug infections–will be eagerly awaiting updates.
This content originally appeared on Sharecare.