ISLAMABAD: Closthioamide, discovered in 2010, might eventually offer an alternative for current drugs that are becoming less effective against gonorrhea

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when a strain of bacteria evolves to resist each consecutive treatment, until no treatments are left, leaving these so-called 'superbugs' incurable. Antibiotics have become less effective against certain bacteria, including N. gonorrhoeae, largely due to overuse and misuse of antimicrobials.Some strains of N. gonorrhoeae are now currently untreatable due to the lack of alternative treatments. The standard WHO recommended treatment combines the antibiotics ceftriaxone and azithromycin, but without treatment, gonorrhoea infection can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in adults, and vision damage in babies when passed from the mother during childbirth.

Although still yet to be tested on animals and humans, the researchers say the antibiotic could be an exciting new step in the fight against the disease. The paper is published today in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

Dr John Heap, lead author from Imperial's Department of Life Sciences, said: "The imminent threat of untreatable antibiotic-resistant infectious diseases, including gonorrhoea, is a global problem, for which we urgently need new antibiotics. This new finding might help us take the lead in the arms race against antimicrobial resistance."
She added: "The results of our initial laboratory studies show that closthioamide has the potential to combat N. gonorrhoeae. Further research is needed, but its potential to successfully tackle this infection, as well as other bacteria, cannot be underestimated."

The authors explained that discovering and developing new antibiotics is difficult and time-consuming, hence the slow pace of antibiotic discovery. Dr Heap said: "We believe there are many undiscovered antibiotics out there in nature, but they are difficult to find and test. For example, the bacteria which produce closthioamide naturally make only tiny amounts that are not enough to test or use, so we had to chemically manufacture it ourselves by mimicking its natural structure."

This is an early stage laboratory-based study, so scientists have yet to determine closthioamide's effectiveness in animals and humans. Dr Heap explained: "The next step will be to continue lab research to further assess the drug's safety and effectiveness. Despite showing tremendous promise, it will be a number of years before, and if, we can use the drug in real life human cases."