Scientists in the UK claim they have found an effective weapon against the superbug methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureas, by using a computer programme designed to analyse the bacteria’s ‘weak spots’ and then matching potential compounds against them.

The team from medical research group E-Therapeutics, a spin-off from Newcastle University, has discovered three already licensed medicines - from the same class of drugs - that could break through MRSA’s defences and kill the disease. Their identity is to be kept top secret, but the researchers say that a treatment could be fast-tracked through development and available for use in National Health Service hospitals in as soon as three years, provided clinical trials are a success.

Prolysis gets Wellcome grant

Meantime, Oxford-based Prolysis has been awarded nearly £3.5 million by the Wellcome Trust under The Seeding Drug Discovery initiative to support its development of a novel antibiotic against MRSA.

The compounds in development are designed to block the ability of the bacteria to divide and therefore multiply, by inhibiting a certain protein responsible for cell division.

"The antibiotic that we are developing is far more selective than those currently in use, targeting only staphylococcal infections," says Dr Lloyd Czaplewski, Director of Research at Prolysis. "Other, broad-spectrum antibiotics tend to kill the patient’s natural bacteria, leaving them open to secondary infection by other pathogenic bacteria, for example Clostridium difficile."

MRSA has become extremely difficult to treat due to its resistance to antibiotics, and so the race is on to find an effective medicine against this killer disease, which claims thousands of lives a year in the UK. Just last week, fears over the problem surfaced again, after a leaked government memo suggested that NHS hospitals may never hit targets on cutting down the incidence of the disease.

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