'Bacterial autopsies' can speed up antibiotic discovery say US scientists

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

New technique can accelerate antibiotic discovery says US team
New technique can accelerate antibiotic discovery says US team

Related tags Bacteria Antibiotic resistance

US scientists have claimed that ‘bacterial autopsies’ could accelerate the discovery of new antibiotics in an announcement made just days after the US CDC warned of a potential “post-antibiotic era” and called for renewed development efforts.

The new technique – also known as bacterial cytological profiling (BCP)​ – is a fluorescence-based means of determining a candidate antibiotic’s mode of action that can identify the cellular pathways involved much more quickly than traditional methods such as radiolabelling assays or transcriptional profiling.

Lead researcher Joe Pogliano, a professor of molecular biology at UC San Diego, told Outsourcing-pharma.com that: “In the same way a pathologist would look at different tissues in the human body to determine cause of death, we look at different parts of a bacterial cell and use that information to determine why it died.”

He added that: “The [BCP] method offers a quantum leap for antibiotic discovery. What typically takes two to six months to accomplish with traditional methods can be accomplished in just two hours with our new method​.”

Post-antibiotic era?

Publication of the research​ coincided with a dire warning from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the lack of antibiotics in drug company pipelines could mean we are about to enter the post-antibiotic era.

The CDCs “Antibiotic resistance threats in the United States, 2013​” ​report analysed the emergence of bacterial resistance and its potential impact on human health and concluded that part of the problem is that there is lack of new antibiotics being developed.

CDC director Tom Frieden said: “Until now, we have seen a steady pipeline of new antibiotics coming on to the market. But unfortunately, it does seem that the pipeline is nearly empty for the short-term.  And experts tell us new drugs could be nearly a decade away​.”

He added that: “We need to develop new drugs to better treat infections in the future…Antibiotics really are a precious national resource, and preserving them is going to require a lot of cooperation and engagement by everyone who uses antibiotics.​”

Industry interest

Outsourcing-pharma.com put these concerns about the lack of antibiotics in development to Professor Pogliano who agreed that: “The situation is very serious." ​He added that the BCP technique's potential for accelerating the discovery process has “received tremendous interest from the pharmaceutical industry​.”

He explained that: “The technology is currently licensed by Linnaeus Bioscience which offers access to the technology to other pharmaceutical companies on a fee for service basis​.”

Note: Outsourcing-pharma.com knows that a ‘quantum leap’ is a very small movement of an electron at the subatomic level. Nevertheless in common parlance, and the quotes above, it indicates a large increase. Oh Boy!

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