Scientists have developed a second generation antibiotic that has demonstrated early efficacy against common bacterial infections. Findings from the study are published in Science Translational Medicine.

A team from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital set out to re-engineer stronger analogs of spectinomycin. One analog, 1950, demonstrated it was as effective as ampicillin in protecting mice from a typically lethal strain of Streptococcus pneumonia.

The spectinomycin versions blocked the growth of pneumococcal bacteria strains that are resistant to common antibiotics. They exhibited increased antibacterial activity against Haemophilus influenzae and Moraxella catarrhalis, common causes of respiratory infection. The analogs also were more effective against strains responsible for most of Legionnaires’ disease, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.

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Richard Lee, PhD, and colleagues, initially set out to create a new antibacterial class called spectinamides to specifically treat drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) in 2014. These investigational drugs utilize a novel mechanism to accumulate within the cell and inhibit protein synthesis, leading to cell death. For this study, Dr. Lee used structure-based design to re-engineer the way spectinomycin binds to the ribosomes of important bacteria. The new design may also work in hindering the ability of the bacteria to efflux the drug before it has a chance to work.

Initial laboratory tests showed that the analogs were not likely to result in serious side effects or interact with other medications. Further research on the analog is underway at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

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