Antibiotics Current Affairs

Malacidins: Scientists discover new class of antibiotics from soil

Scientists from The Rockefeller University in New York have reported discovery of a new class of antibiotics called malacidins. It has been produced by microorganisms living in soil and dirt and is capable of killing off several antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

Discovery

The new family of antibiotics comes from molecules present in large variety of soils. Scientists had analysed more than 1000 unique soil samples across US to better understand how new class of antibiotics is produced and how it can be exploited for fighting bacteria. They had used DNA information that encodes production of antibiotic in daptomycin to study it. This discovery could be a useful weapon in field of medicines.

Significance

Malacidins are distinctive class of antibiotics that are commonly encoded in soil microbiomes. They have never been reported in culture-based NP (Natural Products) discovery efforts.

Malacidins are active against multidrug-resistant pathogens, sterilise methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus  (MRSA) skin infections in animal wound model and did not select for resistance in laboratory conditions.

The malacidins was tested on rats with MRSA skin infections. The condition was cured, and even after 20 days of continued contact with malacidins, the rodents did not experience any side effects.

Concern

Malacidins only target gram-positive bacteria with a very thick cell wall. It is ineffective against gram-negative bacteria which cause cholera, pneumonia, sexually transmitted diseases, and plague. Thus, it does not make it universal cure against all bacteria.

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WHO revises Protocol for Antibiotics

With an aim to curb antibiotic resistance, the World Health Organization (WHO) has revised the protocol for antibiotics. This revision is the biggest such revision of the antibiotics section in the 40-year history of the essential medicines list (EML).

Salient Highlights

WHO has divided the drugs into three categories — access, watch and reserve. It has also specified which category of drugs are to be used  for treating common ailments and which are to be used to treat complicated diseases.

As per the classification, commonly used antibiotics will be placed under the ‘access’ category. WHO has recommended that the antibiotics in this category be made available at all times as a treatment for a wide range of common infections. The drugs that fall under this category includes drugs such as amoxicillin which is widely-used for treating infections such as pneumonia.

Second line of antibiotics which are slightly potent will be placed under ‘watch‘ category. WHO recommends that the drugs coming under this category be prescribed less to avoid further development of resistance. Example of drug that falls under this category is Ciprofloxacin, which is used to treat cystitis and upper respiratory tract infections like bacterial sinusitis and bacterial bronchitis.

The highly potent drugs which should be used only as a last resort will be placed under the ‘reserve’ category. WHO recommends that these drugs be used only when all other alternatives failed such as life-threatening infections caused by multidrug-resistant bacteria.

WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that acts as a coordinating authority on international public health. Established on 7 April 1948, it succeeded the Health Organization, which was an agency of the League of Nations. It is a member of the United Nations Development Group and its headquarters is located at Geneva. WHO flag features the Rod of Asclepius as a symbol for healing.

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