09:25am Saturday 19 August 2017

‘All-in-one’ drugs to target life-threatening superbugs in cystic fibrosis patients

A team of international researchers, led by Associate Professor Dr Michael Kelso at UOW, has received a $588,687 grant from the Australian Cystic Fibrosis Research Trust (ACFRT) to gain a deeper understanding of a new class of multi-action antibiotics that show outstanding potential for treating life-threatening antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs’.

“Cystic fibrosis sufferers (3,000 in Australia) are constantly at the mercy of opportunistic pathogens that love to colonise their highly susceptible lungs. Respiratory biofilm infections are in fact the major cause of death in CF patients. We believe that our ‘Trojan Horse’ antibiofilm drugs will significantly impact these infections and improve the quality of life and the life-expectancy in sufferers of this devastating illness.” Chief Investigator Professor Kelso said.

The project builds on the world-first ‘Trojan Horse’ drugs, developed three years ago by the same team of scientists, who engineered antibiotics to release nitric oxide and directly target bacteria in high density communities, known as biofilms. Biofilms occur when bacteria grow together as communities, usually on surfaces, encased within a protective polymeric blanket, forming what is effectively a bacterial fortress. These fortresses give rise to chronic infections and are unresponsive to antibiotic treatments.

“We now want to create superior ‘all-in-one drugs’ that show both broad-spectrum bacterial cell-killing activity and biofilm dispersing properties. The improved antibiotics will be suitable for use as single-agent mono-therapies, meaning that the medicines are effective on their own,” Professor Kelso said.

The grant is the first to be awarded to UOW by the ACRFT since its establishment in 1989. The fund supports high-quality research with a view to putting Australian medical research at the forefront of international efforts to manage and control life with cystic fibrosis.

Notes to media: Professor Kelso is a medicinal chemist from the School of Chemistry and the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI), who for the past 18 years has worked in pharmaceutical chemistry and drug discovery. His primary expertise is in the design and synthesis of new agents for treating antimicrobial-resistant bacterial infections and new anticancer drugs. Other researchers involved in the project include Associate Professor Scott Rice and Dr Nicolas Barraud from Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) and the University of New South Wales, respectively.

The research team are actively seeking partners to develop the technology further and welcome inquiries from interested partners.

Media contact: UOW media office, +61 2 4221 4227, media@uow.edu.au  


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