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Is the metal ruthenium the new antibiotic?
In the past 50 years, there have been no new therapeutic options to defend against the rapidly growing strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Around 25,000 people in the EU currently die from infections with resistant germs - and the number is rising. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies antibiotic-resistant pathogens as one of the greatest threats of our time. A British research team recently discovered a new drug that could turn the tide.
Researchers at the University of Sheffield in England have discovered a new active ingredient that is able to kill bacteria such as Escherichia coli, even if they show resistance to antibiotics. The research team developed a nano-metal compound that is toxic to bacteria but not to humans. The research results were recently published in the specialist journal "ACS Nano".
With metal particles chasing bacteria
They are the horrors of every hospital and nursing home. Drug-resistant germs are responsible for many serious infectious diseases such as urinary tract infections or pneumonia, which are often fatal. The team led by Professor of Bioinorganic Chemistry Jim Thomas has now developed a novel metal compound for the first time in 50 years, which is preferably eaten by the germs and then poisoned and killed. However, the metal is harmless to humans.
The antibacterial properties of ruthenium
The researchers examined the antibacterial properties of the rare metal ruthenium, which is already used in cancer research. "We have designed the structure so that it is preferentially absorbed by the bacteria," reports Professor Thomas. In the end, the team found a connection that is toxic to gram-negative bacteria and not to humans.
Active substances can be tracked in the body for the first time
The new active ingredient offers a number of other exciting opportunities. Because the discovered connection is luminescent. That means it glows when exposed to light. "The uptake and effect on bacteria can be tracked using the available advanced microscope techniques," explains the biochemist in a press release on the study results. According to the head of research, this discovery could become the most important new therapy against life-threatening super-pathogens. In the following studies, the team plans to test the connection in mammals before the first studies in humans begin.
Modeled on colloidal silver
This is not the first time researchers have used metals to develop antimicrobial agents. The antimicrobial properties of silver have long been known. As colloidal silver (nanosilver), the precious metal was used to fight infection until the first half of the 20th century and was then replaced by other active ingredients due to the high manufacturing costs. But even today, colloidal silver is very popular with some people.
New active ingredients are urgently needed
In a recent report on resistant pathogens, WHO placed several gram-negative bacteria at the top of its list of the greatest threats to humanity. Finding a remedy for such super-pathogens is a top priority in medical research worldwide. The new ruthenium active ingredient could represent the long-awaited breakthrough against antibiotic-resistant germs. For more information, read the article: WHO publishes the top ten global health threats. (vb)