New antibacterial agent could target antibiotic resistant infections

Researchers are using a new type of antibacterial agent that may solve issues with antibiotic resistance, according to a study published on Tuesday in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

A team of researchers from Oregon State University, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the Corvallis, Ore.-based Sarepta, Inc., found that one type of peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer was able to significantly control two strains of Acinetobacter in animal laboratory tests. The bacterial group is notorious for causing significant mortality among military personal serving in combat in the Middle East.

"The mechanism that PPMOs use to kill bacteria is revolutionary," Bruce Geller, the lead author on the study, said. "They can be synthesized to target almost any gene, and in that way avoid the development of antibiotic resistance and the negative impacts sometimes associated with broad-spectrum antibiotics."

The researchers found that PPMOs were much more powerful than some conventional antibiotics like ampicillin and were comparable to some of the strongest antibiotics available. The PPMOs were also effective in cases involving antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

PPMOs specifically target the underlying genes of a bacterium and can offer a more precise approach to managing bacterial infection. Theoretically, PPMOs could manage almost any disease with an underlying genetic component.

PPMOs have yet to be tested in humans, though their basic chemical structure, the PMO, was found safe in humans after extensive testing. The researchers said that continued research and human clinical trials will be needed before the compounds are available for healthcare.