Researchers from FIU’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine are part of an international team that has discovered a new broad-spectrum antibiotic that contains arsenic. The study, published in Nature’s Communication Biology, is a collaboration between Barry P. Rosen, Masafumi Yoshinaga, Venkadesh Sarkarai Nadar and others from the Department of Cellular Biology and Pharmacology, and Satoru Ishikawa and Masato Kuramata from the Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences, NARO in Japan.
Although it contains arsenic, researchers say they tested AST toxicity on human blood cells and reported that “it doesn’t kill human cells in tissue culture.”
According to the CDC, around 2 million people in the U.S. are infected with drug-resistant bacteria every year, killing more than 23,000. The WHO has warned that “a growing number of infections—such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and salmonellosis—are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective.” WHO recently released a global priority list of antibiotic-resistant pathogens that pose the greatest threat to human health.
The group of scientists has tested the new antibiotic and found it to be “very effective” against some of the most notorious bacteria affecting public health, including E. coli, which can cause severe intestinal infections, and the “last resort antibiotic” carbapenem-resistant Enterobacter cloacae, the culprit of increasing infections in neonatal and intensive care units, and one of the WHO-designated priority pathogens. It also worked against Mycobacterium bovis, which causes tuberculosis in cattle. This suggests the potential for treating human tuberculosis. Further testing will be necessary to determine the antibiotic’s effectiveness and toxicity in animals and humans.
The team is now in the process of patenting its discovery and hopes to work with the pharmaceutical industry to develop the compound into a drug—a long and expensive process that could easily take 10 years. Success is not guaranteed, but the work of these scientists remains extremely important.