Drug Research
Drug Discovery & Development

Old and discarded antibiotic compounds could become life-saving drugs

PBR Staff Writer Published 07 February 2018

Scientists from University of Leeds in the UK are re-examining old compounds to see how they could become tomorrow’s life-savers.

During the mid-20th century, multiple chemical compounds with antibacterial properties were analyzed, of which few have been used for development into drugs.

By using advanced science and technology, scientists and chemists at Leeds are re-examining old compounds, helping to discover their strength for the development of new medicine.

University of Leeds’ antimicrobial research centre’s Alex O’Neill said: “We’re showing the value of reviewing compounds previously put on the back of the shelf.

“Amongst the 3,000 or so antibiotics discovered to date, only a handful have been brought into clinical use. There may be a wealth of compounds out there with untapped potential.

The latest research of Dr O’Neill showed that a compound identified in the 1940s could be developed into a new antibiotic drug.

Actinorhodins, a family of compounds, were originally found to have weak antibiotic properties. Researchers have undertaken the study to determine the potency of the compounds to develop into a new drug.

O’Neill said that that at the time scientists did not fully differentiate the individual compounds within the family when they examined them, leading to a less than precise picture of their properties.

Researchers intend to divide the family and select a specific compound (y-ACT) for further assessment through using current generation approaches.

Dr O’Neill further added: “y-ACT exhibits potent antibacterial activity against two important representatives of the ESKAPE* class of pathogens, which are bacteria that have developed the ability to ‘escape’ the action of existing drugs.”


Image: The University of Leeds scientists are studying discarded chemical compounds to develop into new drugs. Photo: courtesy of University of Leeds.