Super Drugs for Super Bugs
November-December 2016 Harvard Magazine
By Erin O’Donnell
Last spring brought alarming reports of the first known case of a germ resistant to colistin, considered an antibiotic of last resort. The bug, a strain of E. coli, was found in a culture taken from a Pennsylvania woman with a urinary tract infection. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, responded by warning that “the medicine cabinet is empty for some patients,” with few new antibiotics in development to fight drug-resistant super bugs. As of 2013, only four international pharmaceutical companies were still attempting to produce new options; in May, The Economist noted that, given the expense of drug development, companies prefer to focus on medicines for chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, which patients take indefinitely.
The Pennsylvania woman’s infection happened to respond to other existing antibiotics, but the failure of colistin renewed conversation about the dangers of multiple-drug-resistant infections and the startling lack of remedies (discussed at length in the feature“Superbug:An Epidemic Begins,”May-June 2014, pages40-49).
The dearth of new treatment options led Andrew Myers, Houghton professor of chemistry and chemical biology, to create with his students a platform that may speed the process of developing macrolide antibiotics. “Macrolide” means “large ring,” and describes the circular chemical structure of this class of antibiotics. These popular drugs are generally well tolerated by patients, but increasingly ineffective against a range of bacteria, Myers explained in an interview.
Read the full article here: Harvard Magazine