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14 Dec 2018

Alzheimer’s drug may help battle antibiotic resistance

Dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria could soon by targeted with a drug initially developed to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Research conducted by the University of Queensland, Griffith University and the Doherty Institute investigated the antibacterial properties of metal transport drug, PBT2.  

Professor Mark Walker from UQ’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences said while the drug did not make it to market for Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease, the results suggest it may still have great use.

“This particular drug progressed to phase one and two human clinical trials for Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s, and was shown to be well tolerated by human subjects,” he said.

“PBT2 is designed to disrupt the interaction between metals and human cells, which was thought would reduce heavy metal levels in the brain.”

University of Melbourne Associate Professor Chris McDevitt, Laboratory Head at the Doherty Institute, said: "Bacteria tightly control their metal content to prevent toxicity. With PBT2, we can exploit this Achilles' heel and weaken their defences against antibiotics."  

"Our work shows that PBT2 can break resistance in a range of critical antibiotic-resistant bacteria, representing a new strategy in the fight against one of the greatest public health threats of our time,” he said.

Professor Walker added: “We may be able to reverse it in such a way that ineffective antibiotics become effective again in treating infectious diseases.”

Professor Mark von Itzstein from Griffith University said it was exciting news, given that antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to global public health.

“Over the past 30 years, many species of bacteria have acquired resistance to a wide range of antibiotics,” he said.

“This has rendered current antibiotic treatment therapies ineffective and led to increasing numbers of deaths due to infectious disease agents in Australia.

“If new solutions aren’t developed, it’s estimated that by 2050, antimicrobial-resistant bacteria will account for more than 10 million deaths per year.

“We’ve found one more weapon in our arsenal to help save millions of lives.”

The research has been published in mBio (DOI: 10.1128/mBio.02391-18).