A Tiny Worm Has Been Found Carrying an Antibiotic That Could Help us Fight Superbugs

Darobactin, a new antibiotic, may be the key to fighting antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Science Daily reports that darobactin can take on gram-negative bacteria – bacteria that can cause serious infections such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections. Gram-negative bacteria develop an outer membrane that becomes an extra shield against any attack. Darobactin can break through this shield by “interfering with the BamA protein that controls access to the outer membrane.”

In two years of research, darobactin was discovered in Photorhabdus bacteria, “lurking inside the gut of tiny parasitic worms known as nematodes.” Scientists hope to develop darobactin into something suitable for humans – the first time to do such from an animal microbiome. While this is promising in the world of science and health, doing so will take a long time.

According to Professor Till Schäberle from the Institute of Insect Biotechnology, “since the 1960s scientists have not succeeded in developing a new class of antibiotics effective against gram negative bacteria, but this could now be possible with the help of this peptide.”

Lab experiments found that darobactin can cure mice of Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae infections without harmful side effects. Since darobactin exhibited admirable effects in the case of infections “with both wild-type, as well as antibiotic-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae strains,” it is a promising substance in developing a new antibiotic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also recognized the need for research and development against resistant pathogens as the highest priority for human health.

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