Researchers have discovered new class of antibiotics called odilorhabdins or ODLs that fights drug resistance. It was produced by symbiotic bacteria found in soil-dwelling nematode worms that colonise insects for food. The bacterium helps to kill insect and secrete antibiotic to keep competing bacteria away.
Researchers had screened 80 cultured strains of ODL bacteria for antimicrobial activity. They had isolated active ODL compounds and studied their chemical structures and engineered more potent derivatives. During research it was found that ODL act on ribosome (molecular machine that makes proteins cells needed to function) of bacterial cells.
ODL like many clinically useful antibiotics, work by targeting ribosome. But ODL is unique because it binds to place on ribosome that has never been used by other known antibiotics. ODL after binding to ribosome disrupts ability of ribosome of bacterial cells to interpret and translate genetic code.
ODL impact reading ability of ribosome and cause ribosome to make mistakes when it creates new protein. This miscoding corrupts cell with flawed proteins and causes bacterial cell to die.
On testing ODL compounds against bacterial pathogens, including many known to develop resistance it was found that these compounds cured mice infected with several pathogenic bacteria and demonstrated activity against both Gram-negative and Gram-positive pathogens, including carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriacae.
Many antibiotics slow bacterial growth, but antibiotics that actually kill bacteria such as ODLs called bactericidal antibiotics are rare. ODLs has unconventional source and has distinct way of killing bacteria, making it effective at treating drug-resistant or hard-to-treat infections.