Norwegian scientists say their laboratory-created zinc chelator could help revive failing antibiotics and potentially help prevent the impending global 'post-antibiotic age'. Jim Drury reports.
The world lies on the cusp of a post-antibiotic age. Scientists world-wide are seeking chemical compounds to fight the looming spectre of untreatable infections. University of Oslo researchers believe they have a way of making failing antibiotics work. They've created a new molecule in the lab -- a so-called zinc chelator which alters the zinc balance in bacteria, without upsetting the balance in human cells. SOUNDBITE (English) PÅL RONGVED, CHEMISTRY PROFESSOR AT UNIVERSITY OF OSLO, SAYING: "We have a vector that has a kind of affinity only for the bacteria and we have attached this vector to a very selective and lipophilic zinc chelating agent - and bacteria are very dependent on zinc, so when you alter the zinc homostasis, the zinc balance, you make the bacteria feel uncomfortable." This researcher originally worked on zinc chelators in the hope of treating cancer cells, but found they were perfect for attacking bacteria. SOUNDBITE (English) ALEXANDER ÅSTRAND (PRON: OSTRAND), POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER AT UNIVERSITY OF OSLO, SAYING: "On the bacteria we found that they blocked an enzyme which is really a key to resistance. So our compounds did not kill the bacteria themselves but they allowed the normal antibiotics which we currently use and rely on to be much more effective." In lab tests the chelator upset the zinc balance in bacteria harvested from clinical patients and inhibited the enzyme which makes bacteria resist to some antibiotics. Research on live animals will follow and the team hopes Stage One human tests could occur within five years.