Imperial researchers reverse antibiotic resistance in MRSA in the lab


Researchers from the Imperial Departments of Chemistry and Medicine have teamed up to tackle the threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Supported by the EPSRC EMBRACE initiative, an Imperial Confidence in Concept award, and the NIHR Imperial BRC, members of Professor Ed Tate’s group (Chemistry) have been working closely with the group of Dr Andy Edwards (Medicine) to devise ways of reversing antibiotic resistance in bacterial pathogens.

The work, published in the journal Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry, describes the development of a small molecule inhibitor of bacterial DNA repair that reversed resistance to the antibiotic ciprofloxacin in MRSA, a major cause of serious infections in hospitals and care homes.

The research took a multidisciplinary approach to combat antibiotic resistance, with a major contribution from past and present Imperial students (Carine Lim, Leigh-Anne Gavin and Declan Cook), supervised by senior authors Dr Tom Lanyon-Hogg and Dr Lindsay Evans. Together with PhD students and postdoctoral researchers in the Tate and Edwards labs, the team assembled expertise in medicinal chemistry, chemical biology, molecular biology and microbiology.

Dr Edwards said: “This work is really exciting because it shows that drug-like small molecules can reverse antibiotic resistance in clinically-important bacterial pathogens, and it’s provided an excellent opportunity to learn how to work closely with people with different skill sets to tackle the crisis of antibiotic resistance.”

The work is currently being further developed to investigate whether the approach can be applied to other bacterial pathogens and antibiotic classes. It is hoped that this work will lead to new therapeutic approaches to reverse antibiotic resistance in patients and thereby preserve our existing stocks of medicines for future generations.

The Imperial Confidence in Concept scheme, to which the NIHR Imperial BRC contributes, awards grants to accelerate the transition from discovery research to translational development projects by supporting preliminary work or feasibility studies to establish the viability of an approach. These awards ‘pump-prime’ the translation of novel therapeutics, devices, and diagnostics, including ‘repurposing’ of existing therapies towards clinical testing.