North Carolina State University chemists have created a compound (see structure above - when used in conjunction with the antibiotic imipenem (below structure), increased the antibiotic's effectiveness against the antibiotic-resistant K. pneumoniae 16-fold. The researchers believe that these early results are very promising for future treatments.) that makes existing antibiotics 16 times more effective against recently discovered antibiotic-resistant "superbugs."
These so-called superbugs are actually bacterial strains that produce an enzyme known as New Delhi metallo-β-lactamase (NDM-1). Bacteria that produce this enzyme are practically impervious to antibiotics because NDM-1renders certain antibiotics unable to bind with their bacterial targets. Since NDM-1 is found in Gram-negative bacteria like K. pneumoniae, which causes pneumonia, urinary tract, and other common hospital-acquired infections, it is of particular concern. NC State chemist Dr. Christian Melander had found that a compound derived from a class of molecules known as 2-aminoimidazoles "recharged" existing antibiotics, making them effective against Gram-positive antibiotic-resistant bacteria like the Staphylococcus strain MRSA. So Melander, Worthington and graduate students Cynthia Bunders and Catherine Reed set to work on a variety of the compound that might prove similarly effective against their Gram-negative brethren.