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Old Drug May Be Key to New Antibiotics

Lamotrigine blocks creation of bacterial ribosomes

According to scientists at McMaster University in Canada, the anticonvulsant drug lamotrigine may help in developing a new class of antibiotics.

Although dozens of antibiotics target what bacteria do, the researchers looked at how a certain part of bacteria is created — and they discovered that there is a way of stopping it.

The new study found that lamotrigine is the first chemical inhibitor of the assembly of ribosomes in bacteria. Ribosomes are the molecular “machines” in cells that create proteins. Many antibiotics attack what ribosomes do. However, the investigators found that lamotrigine stopped ribosomes from being created in the first place.

Their discovery is important as there is growing concern worldwide about how antibiotic resistance is making these drugs ineffective. The World Health Organization has declared that antibiotic resistance is a major threat to global health security.

The new findings were published in the open-access journal eLife.

“Ribosome-inhibiting antibiotics have been routinely used for more than 50 years to treat bacterial infections, but inhibitors of bacterial ribosome assembly have waited to be discovered,” said principal investigator Dr. Eric Brown. “Such molecules would be an entirely new class of antibiotics, which would get around antibiotic resistance of many bacteria. We found lamotrigine works.”

Jonathan Stokes, a PhD student who worked on the paper, added that the team was able to identify the precise target for lamotrigine within bacteria, allowing the researchers to understand ribosome assembly and the therapeutic applications of these types of chemicals.

Source: McMaster University; September 23, 2014.

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