A new antibiotic developed to fight 'superbug' lung infections could be used to treat ventilator-associated pneumonia in COVID-19 patients, a study has suggested.
Researchers have shown that the drug can successfully combat potentially fatal lung infections in both mice, as well as human cells grown in the laboratory.
The medication could help to extend the lives of cystic fibrosis sufferers, who are vulnerable to infections that affect their breathing.
It also offers the hope of potentially slashing deaths rates from the coronavirus by stopping secondary infections from colonising a patient's airways.
This is a particular problem for critically ill patients on ventilators — who are especially prone to developing pneumonia.
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A new antibiotic developed to fight 'superbug' lung infections could be used to treat ventilator-associated pneumonia in COVID-19 patients, a study has suggested
The powerful drug is a so-called 'engineered cationic antimicrobial peptide', or 'eCAP', that works by 'punching into' bacteria — thereby destroying them.
They are a synthetic and more efficient version of the naturally occurring antimicrobial proteins that form a first line of defence against infections in humans.
The team was working with an eCAP called WLBU2 when they stumbled on a way to both make it less toxic and, at the same time, more effective.
'We were so surprised and happy,' said paper author and epidemiologist Peter Di of the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
'At first, we were sceptical and repeated the experiment — but yes, it was 20 times less toxic toward red blood cells in our lab. And when we saw similar results in mice, we were really excited."
The compound is administered via the windpipe to target lung infections — and performs better than current last resort antibiotics, without side effects.
Antimicrobial resistance claims around 700,000 lives a year — a figure set to rise to 10 million by 2050, the World Health Organisation has warned.
It occurs when bacteria rapidly evolve an immunity to drugs — making them harder to combat.
The researchers admitted that the breakthrough came by chance as they looked for ways to make WLBU2 more stable, as so it might stick around longer.sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more
The drug has already been licensed for clinical trials to measure its effectiveness