Discovery of MRSA-busting antibiotic gives hope against resistant superbugs

The discovery of antibiotics that can wipe out persistent infections of the hospital superbug MRSA has raised fresh hopes for progress in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. Health officials around the world have seen a steady rise in bacterial infections that no longer respond to routine antibiotics.
With resistance emerging faster than new drugs can be developed, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for urgent action to combat the problem.
Last year, England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, warned that antibiotic resistance could spell “the end of modern medicine”, with routine operations becoming impossible because doctors run out of antibiotics to keep common infections at bay.
In the latest research, US scientists focused on a small but important group of recurrent infections, which are driven by bacteria that evade antibiotics by lying dormant in the body. The infections tend to affect people with medical implants, or with particular conditions such as cystic fibrosis.
Led by a team at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, the scientists tested the effects of 82,000 lab-made molecules on roundworms infected with MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. From the 185 compounds that showed some effect, they selected two of the most promising for further attention.
Both belonged to a family of molecules known as retinoids, which were originally developed in the 1960s to treat acne and cancer. They are chemically similar to vitamin A.