Scientists from Johns Hopkins University and Medicine have developed a possible new antibiotic for a pathogen that is notoriously resistant to medications and frequently lethal for people with cystic fibrosis and other lung ailments. The pathogen, called Mycobacterium abscessus, is related to a better-known bacterium that causes tuberculosis and leprosy, but has recently emerged as a distinct species presenting most often as a virulent lung infection. The team of scientists from the Hopkins Krieger School of Arts & Sciences' Department of Chemistry and the School of Medicine's infectious diseases department published its findings online on December 7, 2020 in Communications Biology. The open-access article is titled “Development of a Penem Antibiotic Against Mycobacteroides abscessus.” The team has developed one of the first potential treatments of a bacterium that has no FDA-approved treatments and a cure rate less than 50%. Before the new antibiotic, called T405, can move closer to becoming a clinical treatment, researchers need to improve its pharmacological potency using a preclinical animal model of the infection. "People die of this in our hospitals every week," said Craig Townsend, PhD, a Professor of Chemistry, who served as a principal investigator on the study, along with Gyanu Lamichhane, PhD, an Associate Professor of Medicine. "The data we have is very promising." Despite years of urgent calls for more studies to understand M. abscessus bacteria and to explore possible treatments, researchers have been wary of experimenting with the most dangerous member of its Non-Tuberculosis Mycobacteria (NTM) family. "It's still considered an emerging disease," Dr. Lamichhane said. "There are now more NTM than tuberculosis cases in the United States.
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