A New Drug In The Age Of Antibiotic Resistance

Cari Romm | The Atlantic | January 7, 2015

Authorities warn that overuse of such medications has created a public-health disaster. Now, researchers say they've discovered a compound that could slow the clock on the crisis.

Two alarming figures from a report released last month by the U.K. government: By 2050, antibiotic resistance will cost the world a projected 10 million lives and $8 trillion each year.

The report is one more in a growing collection of dire pronouncements about the current state of antibiotics: This past summer, Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that antibiotic resistance could be “the next pandemic.” In March 2013, England’s chief medical officer urged lawmakers to add antibiotic resistance to the government’s list of civil emergencies, a registry of contingency plans for situations like terrorist attacks and major floods. And last April, the World Health Organization issued its own report, declaring that “a post-antibiotic era—in which common infections and minor injuries can kill—far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st century.”

In the U.S. alone, antibiotic-resistant bacteria infect more than two million people each year, killing around 23,000 of them. Meanwhile, scientists are struggling with a losing race against the clock, as bacteria evolve to evade our drugs faster than we can make new ones. But researchers at Northeastern University say they’ve discovered a new antibiotic that may buy us some time. In a paper published today in the journal Nature, they describe teixobactin, a compound they say hasn’t encountered any resistance from the bacteria it attacks...