PPMOs: Glimmer Of Hope In Superbug Crisis?

Biotechnology 101513

It is a well-established fact that antibiotics, once considered miracle drugs, are becoming less effective at treating infections and diseases due to misuse and overuse. Antibiotic resistance has led to the evolution of what are called superbugs, a term used to refer to pathogens that are resistant to most antibiotics.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America, or IDSA, has warned that we are all at risk as new drugs are not being developed in pace with the superbugs' ability to develop resistance to them.

Against this gloomy backdrop, there has emerged a glimmer of hope for solving problems with antibiotic resistance, thanks to researchers at Oregon State University and other institutions.

A new compound called PPMO (peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer) has been successfully used to control two strains of Acinetobacter bacteria in animal studies.

According to the researchers, PPMOs were far more powerful than some conventional antibiotics like ampicillin, and comparable to the strongest antibiotics available today when tested against Acinetobacter baumannii.
Frequently found in Middle East, Acinetobacter baumannii is one of the most dangerous Acinetobacter strains, and has become a global concern due to its increasing multi-drug resistance.

Unlike conventional antibiotics, which work by just disrupting the cellular function of bacterium and often having broader, unwanted impacts, PPMOs have a different mode of action as they specifically target the underlying genes of a bacterium, say the researchers.

Commenting on the new approach to bacterial infection, Bruce Geller, lead author of the study said, "The mechanism that PPMOs use to kill bacteria is revolutionary. They can be synthesized to target almost any gene, and in that way avoid the development of antibiotic resistance and the negative impacts sometimes associated with broad-spectrum antibiotics".

The researchers noted that continued research and eventually human clinical trials will be required before the new compounds are available for health care.

The findings are published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

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