Vancomycin 3.0 is the latest “superantibiotic” created to fight disease-causing bacteria. This particular strain is at least 25,000 times more potent against microbes such as enterococci (VRE) and Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA)—both of which had become immune to the predecessor strains of vancomycin 3.0.
Vancomycin kills off bad bacteria by preventing it from building on cell walls. It then binds to peptides— wall-building protein fragments— that end with two copies of the amino acid D-alanine (D-ala). The bad bacteria have evolved to now replace one D-ala with D-lactic acid (D-lac), which prevents vancomycin from being able to bind to its target.
This latest strain of vancomycin has been synthesized to be able to bond with both D-ala and D-lac. In addition to this, other novel ways of fighting off bacteria have been found with this new drug like the ability to halt cell wall construction which prevents the bacteria from being able to replicate and spread throughout the body.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 23,000 Americans die from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections each year. As more and more strains of bacteria become resistant to drugs such as vancomycin— which has long been considered a sort of last resort for killing off bacteria— it has become crucial that scientists develop stronger drugs that can out-smart, so to speak, such powerful infections. As human beings continue to grow more resistant to antibiotics of all varieties, it has essentially become a race against time for scientists to develop new and creative ways of targeting the bad bacteria that infects our systems.
Despite the fact that this new antibiotic has proved most effective in lab tests, scientists still don’t believe it is ready to be prescribed in any capacity. Regardless, the development of the antibiotic will proceed in the hopes of developing the drug more cheaply, after which it will go on to animal testing and, finally, human trials.
Top photo by Samantha Celera / Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0
Natalie Wickstrom is a freelance writer out of Athens, Georgia. She most likely wrote this to the tune of a movie score whilst chewing gum.