Molecule found in Nova Scotia soil is a Kryptonite for superbugs: Study

Gerry Wright describes the world of healthcare post-antibiotics. (YouTube screengrab)

Gerry Wright describes the world of healthcare post-antibiotics. (YouTube screengrab)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:27 PM ET

Ontario researchers have discovered a molecule found in fungus in the soils of Nova Scotia is a Kryptonite for superbugs.

The molecule, known as AMA, is able to disarm one of the most dangerous antibiotic-resistance genes. NDM-1, or New Delhi Metallo-beta-Lactamase-1, has been identified by the WHO as a global public health threat.

"This is public enemy No. 1," Gerry Wright, director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University, said in a release Wednesday.

"It came out of nowhere, it has spread everywhere and has basically killed our last resource of antibiotics, the last pill on the shelf, used to treat serious infections."

The molecule "knocks out" NDM-1, allowing antibiotics to do their job, he said.

The researchers tested the molecule on mice infected with an NDM-1 expressing superbug. Those given AMA and antibiotics survived, while those given one or the other did not.

"This will solve one aspect of a daunting problem. AMA rescues the activity of carbapenem antibiotics, so instead of having no antibiotics, there will be some," Wright said. "This is a made-in-Canada solution for a global problem."

John Kelton, dean of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster, said antibiotic resistance may be "the most urgent and perplexing challenges" facing health care professionals and researchers today.

"This research provides new hope by showing us a completely new way to approach this problem, and none too soon, given the growing risk that superbugs pose to all of us," he said.

The research has been published in the journal Nature.


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