Drugs approved for other conditions may have antibiotic effects

By Stephen Feller

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Illinois found they may be able to target bacteria by combining already-approved drugs, effectively creating new antibiotics to treat infections which have become resistant to traditional antibiotics.

The scientists said using other drugs to target multiple points on bacteria cells could be effective because bacteria may not be able adapt as quickly to new treatments.


"What we found is that a lot of FDA-approved molecules that are in use actually do kill bacteria and also act as uncouplers. We were kind of surprised to find that," said Eric Oldfield, a chemistry professor at the University of Illinois, in a press release. "What's even better is that some of those molecules also inhibit enzymes specific to bacteria, or disrupt the membrane or the cell wall."

In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers showed currently-approved drugs such as the lebrosy drug Lamprene, the infertility drug clomiphene, and the 3-year-old bedaquiline, which is used for tuberculosis, can be used against infectious bacteria.

The researchers said they plan to develop compounds similar to the drugs that more effectively kill bacterial cells and may also help prevent resistance.


"The whole idea is that it's possible that some of these compounds that are FDA-approved will work. You can screen a million chemicals to find a new compound but in general you have no idea about its toxicology, or you can start with something that's known," Oldfield said. "Once you start making derivatives, you'll have to prove they're safe, but there's a greater chance to get something that's safe and effective by starting with an approved drug than if you just go into the chemistry lab and screen unknown compounds."

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