Local study identifies new drug to fight ‘superbugs’


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A staph infection is just one example of a “superbug,” and a team led by Rhode Island Hospital says it has identified a new drug compound to fight antibiotic-resistant cells.

“We have been trying to identify known chemical compounds that work against the most resistant bacteria, especially a bacteria called MRSA because it’s very aggressive and can be very resistant,” R.I. Hospital Infectious Disease Director Dr. Eleftherios Mylonakis explained. “Unfortunately, it’s very common, so we did a large evaluation of almost 90,000 compounds.”

The researchers are working with the compound bithionol—an anti-parasitic agent—noticed it can also weaken superbug cells. They collaborated with Brown, Emory, Northwestern, and Massachusetts General Hospital.

“This is not something that one laboratory can do,” Dr. Mylonakis added. “We need expertise from engineering, physics, computer science, and we all put our expertise together.”

Doctors say this is critical because so many illnesses could soon become untreatable.

“We are running out of options,” Dr. Mylonakis said. “Everything that we do in hospitals depends on being able to fight infections—chemotherapy, transplantation, surgeries. This is a major problem right now. Every time we have a new antibiotic, we have new bacteria that are resistant. They are adapting and we are always trying to outsmart their resistance.”

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