Old arthritis drug overcomes antibiotic resistance

November 9, 2020

Decades of overuse of antibiotics has rendered most of humanity’s best drugs useless against superbugs; researchers at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), however, have discovered new potential to diminish bacterial resistance by repurposing an existing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) drug, auranofin.

The team found that auranofin, an old drug used to treat RA since the 1980s, can restore the bacteria-killing function of two “last resort” antibiotics – carbapenems and colistins – which bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant towards. Colistin, in particular, is considered only for last-ditch use due to its severe side effects.

Auranofin apparently inhibits two key enzymes that bacteria use to resist antibiotics: the first is the metallo-β-lactamases (MBLs), which bacteria use to break down carbapenems; the second is the mobilised colistin resistance (MCR) enzyme, which breaks down colistin.

In later tests in mice with multidrug-resistant infections, the HKU researchers found that combining auranofin and colistin killed 10 times more of the bacteria in the animals’ livers and spleen than just the antibiotic alone; the combination could also effectively kill superbugs at much lower doses than usual. Most importantly, every single treated animal survived after a five-day treatment regime of auranofin and colistin.

Further tests will cement the possibility of reinforcing our defences against dangerous superbugs.


Category: Featured Videos, Pharmaceuticals

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