Scientists in the United States have re-engineered a crucial antibiotic in the hope that it will be able to wipe out some of the world’s most deadly superbugs.
According to the PNAS journal, the new version of vancomycin is a thousand times more potent than the old drug and fights bacteria in three different ways, making it much more difficult for bugs to dodge.
Despite the fact it hasn’t been tested on animals or people yet, the Scripps Research Institute team behind the drug hope it will be ready for use within five years if it passes more tests.
The breakthrough is an important one as many experts have already warned we are on the verge of an “antibiotic Armageddon”, which could see some infections become untreatable with current drugs.
One such hard-to-treat infection is vancomycin-resistant enterococci or VRE. While some antibiotics do work against it, 60-year-old drug vancomycin is now powerless. That’s one of the reasons the team from Scripps set out to boost its potency and killing ability.
Prof Nigel Brown of the Microbiology Society said: "This development could be hugely important.
"Vancomycin is an antibiotic of last resort against some serious infections. There has been great concern that resistance has been emerging."