Technique shields patients from 'toxic' antibiotic drugs

Cardiff University scientists have developed a new technique that targets antibiotic-resistant bacteria and shields patients from the toxic parts of an antibiotic drug.

Dr Elaine Ferguson from Cardiff University’s School of Dentistry is said to have utilised a new technique that attaches nano-sized biodegradable polymers to the antibiotic drug colistin.

Use of the drug colistin to fight infection has been limited as it is known to be toxic to the kidneys and nerves despite the fact that it has been found to be effective against new multi-drug resistant bacteria, such as NDM-1.

Cardiff University scientists believe the new technique will help under-used antibiotic drugs such as colistin to be used to fight against the spread of life-threatening bacterial infections.

‘The technology we’ve developed came as a direct response to an urgent medical need for better antibiotics to safely treat patients with life-threatening infections. Very few new antimicrobial drugs have emerged despite intensive research, with only two new classes of antibiotics developed in the last 30 years,’ said Ferguson, who worked alongside Cardiff University’s Prof David Thomas and Prof Timothy Walsh to develop the technique.

‘Our new approach allows existing effective therapies to be improved to help patients with severe infections who may otherwise suffer significant side effects after treatment.

‘The polymer shields the drug molecule making it less toxic to the body while, at sites of infection, there is an enzyme present which removes the polymer — specifically activating the drug where it is needed,’ she added.

The research was supported by the Severnside Alliance for Translational Research (SARTRE) — a major collaboration between Cardiff and Bristol universities designed to translate medical research to improve lives.