John Stephens of Maynooth’s department of chemistry said it was “almost as good as Vancomysin”, long considered a drug of last resort to treat multiple drug-resistant bacterial infections.
Quinoline thiourea, the compound which showed itself to be effective against superbugs such as staphylococcus aureus, E.coli, and MRSA, is, Dr Stephens said, “very active in its ability to inhibit MRSA growth”.
When tested for toxicity, the findings were also positive. A toxicity study was performed using the larvae of the greater wax moth and Dr Stephens said there were “no sign of any toxic effects” and that the larvae went onto incubate normally.
While the findings of the three-year study are promising, Dr Stephens said there was still a considerable distance to go before any new antibiotics are available to the public. Nonetheless, it paved the way for further studies that could ultimately lead to the development of a new class of antibiotics effective in the war against superbugs.
“This is the early stage of development and we will build and build on that. We have found the compound to be effective but the next step is to find out why, what makes it special, how is it disrupting bacterial growth.
“Once we know that, we can look at making it more suitable for formulation into a drug.”
This was still “several years away”, Dr Stephens said. No new class of antibiotics has materialised since the 1980s when fluoroquinolones emerged as broad-spectrum antibiotics effective in treatment of serious bacterial infections.
Dr Stephens said the problem of superbugs was growing all the time, but that over-prescribing and poor hospital hygiene were also factors, and not just the need for more powerful antibiotics.
The new research is published in the internationally renowned journal Bio- organic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters. According to recent studies, on any given day one in 18 hospitalised patients are suffering from healthcare-associated infections, with MRSA and E.coli responsible for 64% of cases.