U.K. company develops weapon against hospital 'superbug'

Clostridium difficile: Yes, it is just as nasty as it sounds. C. difficile is a "superbug" that is the scourge of hospitals. It strikes when antibiotics kill all the "good bugs" that dwell in your gut--like the ones that aid in digestion--and leave only C. difficile, which then causes severe diarrhea and could lead to colon infections.

Researchers at Summit, a U.K.-based drug discovery company, thinks it's found an answer to C. difficile with a new antibiotic it is developing with help from a Wellcome Trust Seeding Drug Discovery award. According to an article by the Wellcome Trust, Summit's new antibiotic "clears C. difficile and provides total protection from recurrence in an animal model of infection." The compound also leaves the natural populations of bacteria in the gut unharmed, Wellcome says.

William Weiss, director of pre-clinical services at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, who collaborated on the preclinical studies, is hopeful: "These results are very promising and show that SMT 19969 exhibits a clearly defined antibiotic effect and is superior to currently approved treatment options. If these results are replicated in man, SMT 19969 has the potential to become a new and highly effective antibiotic for the treatment of C. difficile infections."

To place this problem in perspective, in 2009 in the U.K., C. difficile was responsible for about five times more deaths than MRSA, while the combined annual cost of care in Europe and North America is estimated at $7 billion.

- read about the Summit's C. difficile program
- and the Wellcome Trust article