Brain and Body

Scientists Have Developed a New Antibiotic for Gonorrhea

January 4, 2017 | Kelly Tatera

Photo credit: University of York

There are growing concerns that the STD is becoming untreatable, so this could be a game-changing new treatment option.

Back in July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning that gonorrhea is becoming resistant to the only two drugs left that treat the sexually transmitted disease (STD), raising concerns that the disease may become untreatable.

The STD is caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and over the past few years, N. gonorrhoeae has developed high resistance to antibiotics. Being able to treat gonorrhea is critical, as the CDC reports that it’s the second most commonly reported notifiable disease in the US — nearly 400,000 cases were reported in 2015 alone.

RELATED: Gonorrhea May Become Untreatable, CDC Warns

Scientists at the University of York are coming to the rescue with a newly developed antibiotic that could be used to treat gonorrhea.

The antibiotic harnesses the therapeutic effects of carbon monoxide-releasing molecules (CO-RMs), which have been shown to have a huge potential to enhance antibiotic action against bacterial infections. CO-RMs work by binding to the health-threatening bacteria and preventing them from producing energy.

“Gonorrhoea only has one enzyme that needs inhibiting and then it can't respire oxygen and it dies,” Professor Ian Fairlamb, from the University's Department of Chemistry, explains in a press release.

At high levels, CO is a toxic molecule, but the researchers are using very low concentrations.

Going forward, they plan to develop the antibiotic drug in the form of a pill or a cream. Then, these current study findings, which were evaluated in vitro, can be further tested in clinical trials.

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"Antimicrobial resistance is a massive global problem which isn't going away,” said Professor James Moir, from the University's Department of Biology.

“We need to use many different approaches, and the development of new drugs using bioinorganic chemistry is one crucial way we can tackle this problem, to control important bacterial pathogens before the current therapies stop working."

The study has been published in the journal MedChemComm.

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