OU researchers published updates about their development of solutions for antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the academic journal Nature Chemical Biology.
According to a press release from OU Research, the team was formed by OU biochemistry professor Helen Zgurskaya; OU physics of life, computational and antibiotic discovery professor Valentin Rybenkov and OU bioorganic, medicinal and natural products assistant professor Adam Duerfeldt, along with with researchers from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and corporate researchers from Merck & Co.
OU researchers were supported with funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health.
Zgurskaya said in the release that antibiotic-resistant bacteria – which are created when germs like bacteria and fungi defeat the drugs designed to kill them – is a threat to public health that is exacerbated by COVID-19.
“The rapid spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in clinics challenges our modern medicine, and the traditional approaches to antibiotic discovery fail to generate new drugs needed for treatment of antibiotic resistant infections,” Zgurskaya said in the release. “The current COVID-19 pandemic further magnifies this problem because patients in intensive care units are particularly vulnerable to such infections ... (our) team is working on developing new tools to guide the discovery and optimization of new antibacterial agents.”
Zgurskaya said in the release OU researchers are developing “robust cheminformatic tools to predict Gram-negative permeation and efflux,” which is in charge of transporting drugs out of the cell. According to the article, the capability of the Gram-negative cell to be resistant to antibiotics depends on the “permeability barrier,” and the rationalization of this process will help lead medicinal chemistry campaigns and the design of antibacterial discovery libraries.
“In particular, Gram-negative pathogens present both biological and chemical challenges that hinder the discovery of new antibacterial drugs,” Zgurskaya said in the release. “As a result of these challenges, intensive screening campaigns have led to few successes, highlighting the need for new approaches to identify regions of chemical space that are specifically relevant to antibacterial drug discovery.”