Gonorrhoea may be treatable once again – the key is in a toxic molecule

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Posted January 6, 2017

Recently some worrying information has been circulating around the internet and scientific community, saying that gonorrhoea became virtually untreatable. It is because of nowadays common phenomenon when bacteria become drug-resistant. But now scientists from the University of York have developed a new antibiotic which could finally treat gonorrhoea again.

Neisseria gonorrhoeae became drug-resistant, but scientists think they just found a new way to treat it. Image credit: CDC/ Dr. Norman Jacobs via Wikimedia, Public Domain

Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection, caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which somehow developed a drug-resistant strain in recent years. It is fairly common so it must be treated somehow in order to avoid widespread problems. Scientists now thought of using carbon monoxide-releasing molecules. CO in the body is produced naturally and it can help treating bacterial infections. In fact, this new research revealed that bacteria responsible for gonorrhoea is sensitive to CO-based toxicity – carbon monoxide-releasing molecules bind to the bacteria, getting in a way of it producing energy. This is very important news, because gonorrhoea is the second most common sexually transmitted infection in England.

Scientists already are calling this achievement a breakthrough. They say it could potentially pave ways for new treatments that gonorrhoea bacteria could not be resistant to. Professor Ian Fairlamb, one of the authors of the study, explained: “The carbon monoxide molecule targets the engine room, stopping the bacteria from respiring. Gonorrhoea only has one enzyme that needs inhibiting and then it can’t respire oxygen and it dies”. Of course CO molecule is toxic, but the treatment would include only minute numbers of it. Bacteria is sensitive even to low concentrations of it, which would not cause any significant side effects.

So the next stage of the research is drug development, which could be a pill or even a cream. The form of the medicine is not that crucially important, the major achievement already has been made. However, until scientists figure out a proper way to deliver the molecule to the site of the infection, they cannot start clinical trials. This could solve the problem of Neisseria gonorrhoeae becoming drug-resistant. Even though it is more or less a trivial bacterial infection, but if it is goes out of control it can cause some major problems.

Antimicrobial resistance is a huge problem in the world. Researches like this prove that some ingenuity can solve it eventually.

Source: york.ac.uk

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