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Team discovers new MRSA treatment

| Thursday, February 19, 2015

A team of researches led by Professor Shahriar Mobashery and Mayland Chang developed an antibiotic to combat Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, a strain of a certain species of bacteria that is resistant to a considerable number of conventional modern antibiotics.

“MRSA is a multi-drug resistant version of a very common bacterium called staph aureus,” Mobashery said. “Staph aureus grows in our skin, grows in our noses, and has been with humanity for a very long time. However, this version, which is drug resistant, first appeared in 1962 in the U.K. and has become a global problem.”

Mobashery said understanding the biochemical properties of MRSA that allow it to resist the effects of conventional antibiotics gave them valuable information and resources to develop an antibiotic to respond to the problem.

“How does this organism have these biochemical properties that make it so difficult for treatment? That is a question my lab concerns itself with,” Mobashery said. “We want to understand the basis for the drug resistance this very difficult organism has developed over the many decades after its appearance.

“When we understand some of the details of the biochemical event, can we subvert them in a way that leads to the demise of the organism? The answer to that question is yes, and we have come up with strategies that lend themselves to specifically addressing the methods that MRSA has devised for resistance,” he said. “We are actually able to take that and turn [them] around to … kill the organism.”

Mobashery said finding and developing the drug to exploit the weaknesses he and his team found in MRSA was a massive computational undertaking, narrowing  over 1.2 million candidates to just 118 compounds.

“1.2 compounds were so called ‘docked’ and ‘scored’ and … then, out of a collection of 2,500 compounds that had promise, we did some further analysis on which one of those were worthy of pursuit because not all of them were easy to synthesize. So we wanted to ideally buy some of these compounds,” he said.

“We ended up choosing the 118 compounds … because they were commercially available and synthetically accessible.”

Mobashery said the compounds were observed to effectively destroy MRSA in mice infected with the bacteria and that he saw a promising future for his work with the organism with the help of the University and collaboration with other researchers,” Mobashery said.

“In principle, the University is very much interested in exploring whether companies will step up and move this class of molecules forward into clinical trials. That is something we won’t be able to do ourselves and we need partners and that’s a possibility. But research is ongoing on MRSA because of our broad interest in this organism and I’ve been at it for something like a dozen years and I trust that in a dozen years I’ll still be at it.”

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