Antibiotics database aims to spur new research as concerns on drug effectiveness grow

UK collaboration's AntibioticDB database will help develop new drugs and reinvestigate stopped or stalled research

British collaboration's AntibioticDB database will help develop new drugs and reinvestigate stopped or stalled research

If antibiotics lose their effectiveness, then some vital medical procedures could become too dangerous
to perform. Picture: iStock

Scientists are launching a database to help encourage the development of new antibiotics.

Researchers have developed the new tool to help list compounds that could be used to develop new treatments.

It comes amid global concern that some drugs used to fight infections are losing effectiveness.

It has previously been estimated that if no action is taken, drug-resistant infections will kill ten million people a year by 2050.

A new paper outlining the new database, published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, states: 'The current state of antibiotic discovery, research and development is insufficient to respond to the need for new treatments for drug-resistant bacterial infections.'

Collaborative work

The database, AntibioticDB, comes after a collaboration between the University of Birmingham, the John Innes Centre based in Norwich and the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

It details antibacterial compound discoveries that were once promising leads but, for various reasons, the research has stopped or stalled.

Lead author Laura Piddock, of the University of Birmingham's Institute of Microbiology and Infection, said: 'There is no doubt that the antibiotic pipeline needs revitalisation; however, the answer may not only be the development of new drugs, but also reinvestigating compounds previously discontinued.

'For this reason, we have developed and populated an easy-to-use database of antibiotics that can be accessed for free by anyone; we hope this will help academia and commercial companies with their drug-discovery efforts.'

Picking up dropped research

Fellow author Tony Maxwell, who is project leader in biological chemistry at the John Innes Centre, said: 'We wanted to establish the current status of the drug-discovery pipeline in antibiotic development – particularly to look at compounds that might have been dropped in the past to see if they could be resuscitated.

'We also went back to 1960 and uncovered details of old compounds and drugs that were not developed. These could form the basis for new development to treat today's infections.'

In recent years, there has been a UK drive to raise global awareness of the threat posed to modern medicine by antimicrobial resistance.

If antibiotics lose their effectiveness, then vital medical procedures – including gut surgery, caesarean sections, joint replacements and chemotherapy – could become too dangerous to perform.

Growing resistance to antimicrobial drugs

Health leaders from around the world have raised serious concerns about the growing resistance to antimicrobial drugs. These are the drugs which destroy harmful microbes.

Antibiotics are the best known of these drugs, but there are others – such as antivirals, antimalarial drugs and antifungals.

Related material 

Read the academic paper

In other news