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Fighting MRSA with new membrane-busting compounds

March 15, 2017

Public health officials are increasingly concerned over methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The bacteria have developed resistance to a number of treatments, even antibiotics of last resort in some cases. Now researchers report in ACS' journal Bioconjugate Chemistry that a new class of compounds can treat MRSA skin infections in mice with no signs of acute toxicity, and no signs that the bacteria would develop resistance to them after many applications.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year at least 2 million people in America become infected by bacteria resistant to antibiotics, and 23,000 people die from such infections. Researchers have been working to combat this major public health threat for years. One of the latest fronts in this fight involves antimicrobial peptides and lipopeptides, which can destroy bacterial membranes. But translating these molecules into clinical products has been difficult. More recently, researchers have developed a new class of membrane-busting compounds called lysine-conjugated aliphatic norspermidine analogues (LANAs) that have been effective at killing certain bacteria and the Ebola virus in lab tests. Mohini Mohan Konai and Jayanta Haldar wanted to see if these compounds could also work against MRSA.

The researchers found that LANAs were effective against four MRSA strains in lab experiments. Testing on mice showed that the compounds could eliminate MRSA skin infections, which form notoriously difficult-to-treat biofilms. Even after 20 passages, the MRSA bacteria failed to develop resistance to the compounds. The results suggest that LANAs could be strong contenders for treating MRSA skin infections, the researchers say.
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The authors cite funding from the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research. They also acknowledge the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (India) for support via a senior research fellowship.

The abstract that accompanies this study is available here.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With nearly 157,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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