Scientists believe they have found an alternative to antibiotics which could be used to combat superbugs such as MRSA.
A small test study suggested the new drug, an enzyme that solely targets the bacteria in MRSA, was effective against the infection with scientists claiming the likelihood of the bug becoming resistant was “very limited”.
“With the increasing prevalence of multi-drug-resistant bacteria, new strategies for the treatment of bacterial infections are needed”
Micreos chief executive Mark Offerhaus hailed it as a “new era in the fight against antibiotic resistant bacteria” and said “millions of people stand to benefit”.
MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is resistant to many antibiotics and poses a serious hazard in hospitals and nursing homes – though concerted action in NHS acute settings has reduced its incidence in recent years.
Politicians and scientists have warned of the need to find a cure for infections that have become resistant, with David Cameron this year stating it was a “very real and worrying threat” that could send medicine “back into the dark ages”.
The new drug, marketed as Staphefekt, is based on naturally occurring enzymes called endolysins, which are found in viruses and kill bacteria in a different way to antibiotics.
In one observational study, Staphefekt killed MRSA in five out of six people suffering skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema.
Clinical biologist Dr Bjorn Herpers told the conference: “The results are exciting, and demonstrate the potential this technology has to revolutionise the way we treat certain bacterial infections.
“With the increasing prevalence of multi-drug-resistant bacteria, new strategies for the treatment of bacterial infections are needed,” he said.
“As well as being less prone to resistance induction than antibiotics, endolysins (enzymes) destroy only their target bacterial species, leaving the beneficial bacteria alone,” he added.
The firm is to conduct clinical trials of Staphefekt and is looking to expand them internationally.