This is incredible news in the arms race between drugs and disease. Researchers have discovered a form of bacteria with antibiotic properties so powerful that it can defeat anthrax and the virulent, antibiotic-resistant bacteria MRSA. Could we have a new drug on our hands?
The bacteria in question is called anthracimycin, and researchers literally scooped it out of the sand on a California beach. It's a marine organism, and is related to other, well-known antibiotic bacteria. Under laboratory conditions, anthracimycin was able to destroy Bacillus anthracis, the pathogen that causes anthrax infections.
Over at Scientific American's 60 Second Science, Christopher Intagliata says:
Researchers say this newly discovered compound is structurally and chemically unique from . . . all other antibiotics—meaning it could launch a whole new class of drugs.
Early tests suggest anthracimycin is 25 to 40 times more potent than today's antibiotics at killing anthrax and other germs, in petri dishes at least. And it wiped out MRSA in 90 percent of infected mice. The results appear in the journal Angewandte Chemie.
We still don't know whether this antibiotic will work in humans, and it may be up to pharma companies to pave the way for human trials. But given how horrific MRSA infections are, especially in hospitals, we're guessing that this will be an organism of significant interest to a lot of companies who develop drugs.
A warning to those who want to guzzle this antibiotic right now: it usually takes years to develop a new drug and test it for safety in humans. So don't expect this at your pharmacy tomorrow.