Sunday, 18 January 2015

Resisting Resistance

Teixobactin may be one of the most important discoveries made this year, even only a few weeks in to 2015. For the first time in 30 years, a new antibiotic has been discovered! The antibiotic was found by Kim Lewis and his team at Northeastern University.

Previously, it has been extremely difficult to discover and grow new drugs in, due to the fact only a small proportion of bacteria can grow under normal lab conditions – only 1% of microbes can be grown this way! However, Lewis and his team found a novel way to help the bacteria grow – by keeping them in conditions as close to their natural environment as possible. This involved using an electronic chip device that allowed the scientists to grow the microbes in the soil.

The solution to antibiotic resistance? This image shows the chemical structure of Teixobactin
Source: Wikimedia Commons
The very first antibiotic discovered was penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928. Since, there have been more than 100 more discoveries of types of antibiotics, but none since 1987. This lack of newly discovered drugs, combined with over prescribing by doctors had been leading towards a worrying situation of bacteria becoming increasingly resistant. The government’s Chief Medical Officer described the situation of resistance prior to the discovery of Teixobactin as, “Britain faced(s) returning to a 19th century world where the smallest infection or operation could kill.”

Fortunately, due to Teixobactin’s unusual method of killing bacteria, it is hoped that bacteria will not be able to become resistant for up to 30 years. Typically, other types of antibiotics work by targeting bacterial proteins. This does work for a short while, but over time mutations creep into the DNA, resulting in the bacteria becoming resistant. Instead, Teixobactin acts on “gram-positive” type of bacteria by targeting a lipid on their cell walls, resulting in the breakdown and an inability to synthesis cell walls. Teixobactin has been found to be able to treat common infections such as tuberculosis, S. aureus and C. difficile.

Over-prescribing and a lack of new antibiotics has lead to rife resistance
The discovery of Teixobactin and its mechanism of action has huge implications for the pharmaceutical industry. Prior to discovery, the industry was based on a race to develop drugs before the bacteria developed resistance. Often, antibiotic resistance spread amongst pathogenic (disease-causing) microbes faster than researchers could develop new ways for us to combat them. Kim Lewis, who led the research, says that now “Teixobactin show how we can adopt an alternative strategy and develop compounds to which bacteria are not resistant.” Not only this, but the method used to discover Teixobactin was novel and will now likely be adopted into many research labs across the globe, in order to help discover more antibiotics in the same manner.


  1. Even though I try to take a holistic approach to my health I'm really glad that this has been discovered for times when other things won't work.

  2. This is really comforting to know seeing as I'm really prone to MRSA due to a skin condition I've been suffering from. I really love your design, Emily!

    1. Thank you! Really glad to know this post might've helped you :)

  3. didnt the slow down in discovery of conventional antibiotics lead towards working on next generation antibiotics like endolysins from bacteriophages? these dont suffer the same problems from resistance and are more specific than conventional antibiotics. there has been a lot of work on them in the last 10 years especially since we can use plants to create them.

    1. Yes you're right that there was a turn towards instead looking at using endolysins, I just thought I'd focus on the newly discovered antibiotic Teixobactin this week. Thanks for your comment!