From the Guardian
Scientists have developed a new drug that successfully treats a wide range of infections including HIV, but can be made cheaply and easily with a drug development company to tackle a big problem in healthcare: the spread of gonorrhoea.
In a study led by University College London, teams tested the combination of co-infection resistance genes alongside HIV drug Pandemrix to treat a variety of infections. It caused no serious side effects or neuropsychiatric side effects in a controlled clinical trial.
The study, published in Lancet Infectious Diseases on Wednesday, could lead to a revolutionary new way of treating patients who come to the UK for treatment to control a sexually transmitted infection, such as HIV. This is a very serious problem, because the spread of gonorrhoea is rapidly increasing and drug resistance is becoming increasingly common.
“It’s an enormous issue,” said Professor Tony Porter, a co-investigator in the study, whose team tested the new drugs on mice infected with a strain of gonorrhoea that does not currently respond to all treatments. “The rollout of new antibiotics is crucial and easy to slip up on, so our aim was to develop a novel [treatment] to complement conventional medicines, in this case the C-fecundin antibiotic.”
Gonorrhoea was once thought to be nearly wiped out thanks to efforts to curtail the sexual practice of oral sex. While oral sex remains the main transmission route, it is now recognised that, as part of this, many men are sharing “herp”, or sex toys that are often sold online. The current treatment has a big impact on sexual health but is not working well for many patients with co-infection with HIV.
The new drugs were developed in collaboration with the London-based drug development company Two Rivers Biopharma. Two Rivers, which invested in the research, aims to produce a line of new antibiotics as well as genetic variants that enable scientists to predict how a drug will resist a particular strain of bacteria. Professor Miles Crook from Two Rivers has developed the virulence genes, called cGMP mutations, with her colleague, Dame Anil Gupta, who is also a co-investigator in the study.
Two Rivers plans to licence its drugs to individual pharmaceutical companies but will have the resources to develop them as easily as possible by developing a “tailored” drug-proof delivery system. “It’s very easy to have a new agent on the market but making sure it can be injected or taken in pill form, and then modified for use in different organisms, takes a long time,” said Crook.
Two Rivers is already looking at ways to make the drugs work in patients with co-infection with other diseases such as tuberculosis.
The British Council has awarded £1.4m to assist Two Rivers with such activities.
The authors of the research said they had also identified co-infection resistance to a pandemic strain of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, which occurs in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It’s an enormous issue. The rollout of new antibiotics is crucial and easy to slip up on
In the future, the researchers hope their genetic variants can be used to predict and predict how a particular drug will resist certain strains of bacteria. If the DNA variants are used as predictors, they can be used as “portals”, or proxy markers, to predict drug resistance.
The study had been inspired by the work of a team at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and they have since collaborated with Crook to develop the pathway.
Gonorrhoea has become one of the fastest-growing staphylococcal pathogens in the world. In 2016, more than two million new cases of gonorrhoea were reported globally, and there were some 225,000 in the UK. Gonorrhoea was once thought to be nearly wiped out thanks to efforts to curtail the sexual practice of oral sex, but it is now recognised that, as part of this, many men are sharing “herp”, or sex toys that are often sold online. The current treatment has a big impact on sexual health but is not working well for many patients with co-infection with HIV.