Adding iridium may offer a new approach to antibiotic resistance

VA Tech's Joseph Merola

Virginia Tech researchers say that they have developed a new antibiotic that includes iridium, a "transition metal" that keeps them from breaking down and improving delivery to fight infections. And that added ingredient, they say, can offer a new solution for patients who become resistant to currently available antibiotics.

Working in mice, the research team says that adding the metal can evidently be done safely, though they emphasized that there's a considerable amount of work that needs to be done yet to determine human safety and efficacy. The results were published in Medicinal Chemistry Communications

"So far our findings show that these compounds are safer than other compounds made from transition metals," said Joseph Merola, a professor of chemistry in the College of Science, a Fralin Life Science Institute affiliate, and a corresponding author of the study. "One of the reasons for this is that the compounds in this paper that target MRSA are very specific, meaning that a specific structure-function relationship must be met in order to kill the bacteria."

The iridium-containing antibiotics have also been tested in human cell lines.

These investigators are following up on one of the big unmet medical needs in the industry. After a long drought of research among big companies, MRSA and other bacteria strains developed a resistance to the antibiotics in use. Now Merck ($MRK), Roche ($RHHBY) and a number of smaller biotechs have launched new efforts, with academic teams like the one at Virginia Tech pursuing new animal studies. 

"We are still at the beginning of developing and testing these antibiotics but, so far, our preliminary results show a new group of antibiotics that are effective and safe," said Joseph Falkinham, a professor of microbiology in the College of Science and an affiliate of the Virginia Tech Center for Drug Discovery. "Within the next few years, we hope to identify various characteristics of these antibiotics, such as their stability, their distribution and concentration in animal tissue, their penetration into white blood cells, and their metabolism in animals."

- here's the release
- read the research article