Zurich/Allschwil - Researchers at the University of Zurich (UZH) together with their business partner Spexis are pursuing a new class of antibiotics to treat resistant bacteria. This involves chemically modifying the naturally occurring antibacterial protein thanatin.

Researchers at the UZH are working with Spexis, a pharmaceutical company from the canton of Basel-Landschaft, to develop a new class of antibiotics to combat Gram-negative bacteria. The UZH explains in a press release that modifications to a naturally occurring substance aim to tackle even resistant bacteria in an innovative way. Specifically, the researchers are attempting to optimize the protein thanatin. It is used by insects to defend against infections.

Thanatin is not suitable for use as an antibiotic in its naturally occurring form as it only has a weak effect and rapidly triggers the development of resistance. This is why the researchers are interested in changing the protein’s chemical structure in a targeted way. Oliver Zerbe, Head of the NMR lab at the UZH, comments in the press release: “To do this, structural analyses were essential.” 

According to the press release, the initial tests on mice have already had positive results. Zerbe adds: “The novel antibiotics proved very effective, especially for treating lung infections.” However, before the new substances can be tested on humans, further preclinical investigations must be conducted, but Zerbe believes that “we now have the prospect of a new class of antibiotics becoming available that is also effective against resistant bacteria.” ce/hs 

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