Two heads better than one in antibiotic development

A two-headed compound obtained from soil bacteria may lead to the production of the next generation of antibiotics, researchers in the UK report. The potent compound, called simocyclinone, shut down crucial bacterial enzymes in an unusual two-pronged attack--possibly reducing the potential for bacterial resistance, Chemistry World reports.

"A completely new way to beat bacteria is an exciting find at a time when resistance to existing antibiotics is growing," Professor Tony Maxwell from the John Innes Centre, lead author on the research that was published recently in Science, says in a statement. "If you can knock out this enzyme, you have a potential new drug," Maxwell adds.

Simocyclinone was initially isolated from soil bacteria--an important source of new antibiotic agents. "Soil bacteria are continually at war with one another, and around three-quarters of modern antibiotics originated from them," Maxwell tells Chemistry World. Simocyclinone hasn't been considered for clinical use because it struggles to penetrate cells effectively.

However, according to the BBC, the news comes as experts warn that excessive regulation is preventing new antibiotics being developed. A recent EU report found that only 15 antibacterial drugs that offer a potential benefit over existing drugs are in development.  Professor Laura Piddock from the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, tells the BBC that the simocyclinone results are exciting. "But clearly if someone comes up with a useable version of this molecule they're going to have to overcome some hurdles, which are so profound it makes you very pessimistic," Piddock says. 

- check out the John Innes Centre release
- read the BBC coverage
- find out more from Chemistry World