A team of researchers at the Herbert Wertheim School of Medicine at Florida International University who, along with scientists from Japan, have discovered a new arsenic-based broad-spectrum antibiotic called arsinotricin. The FIU researchers, from left to right: Adriana Emilce Galvan, Masafumi Yoshinaga, Kunie Sakurai, Venkadesh Sarkarai Nadar, Jian Chen and Barry Rosen.
For generations, the idea of arsenic as a remedy seemed incredible and terrifying.
But a group of researchers at Herbert Wertheim School of Medicine at Florida International University and an international team in Japan have discovered a new broad-spectrum antibiotic containing arsenic, the FIU said on Tuesday.
The broad spectrum means "an effective antibiotic against many types of bacteria," said Barry Rosen of the FIU and co-author of the study, published Monday in Nature's Communication Biology, referring to arsinotricin.
This is important, according to FIU scientists, because resistance to antibiotics – when a bacterium undergoes mutation and does not react to the effectiveness of antibiotics – is a growing problem.
Antibiotic resistance crisis
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least two million people are infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 die each year as a result of these infections.
In February 2018, the World Health Organization warned that "new mechanisms of resistance to antibiotics are emerging, spreading throughout the world, threatening the ability to treat common infectious diseases."
The WHO indicates that infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood infections, gonorrhea and food-borne infections are "those that are resistant to antibiotics and are difficult to treat, and can sometimes lead to death." .
A natural product
Rosen said the antibiotic arsinotricin is "a natural product made from bacteria found in soil that is effective against many types of germs, that is, broad-spectrum". Arsinotricin is the first and only known antibiotic that contains natural arsenic and we have high hopes. "
Although the antibiotic contains arsenic, the researchers tested the toxicity of AST in human cells and concluded that they did not kill them.
According to the FIU, it has been determined that the new antibiotic is "very effective against E. coli bacteria, which causes severe intestinal infections as well as enterobacteria resistant to the family of antibiotics called carbapenem (which have been associated with infections increasingly common in neonatal and intensive care units.
Scientists from the United States and Japan also determined that the antibiotic in question was effective against the bacterium that causes tuberculosis in cattle. "This suggests that it has the potential to treat tuberculosis in people," he said in his statement to the media.
The next step, which should be extended, is to carry out further tests to determine the efficacy and toxicity of the antibiotic in animals and people, to patent the finding and to work with the pharmaceutical industry to make it a drug that can be prescribed to the public. This process, the FIU informs, is expensive and can take 10 years.
"We are running out of tools to fight these diseases. We need a new potent antibiotic to solve this problem," said Masafumi Yoshinaga, the other co-author of the study, who works at the Department of Cell Biology and Pharmacology at FIU. "We have shown that this new arsenic compound may be a potent antibiotic."
Researchers from Japan's Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences (NARO) also participated in the study with the FIU.
"People get scared when they hear the word arsenic because it's a toxin and a carcinogen, but the use of arsenic-derived substances to fight off microbes and cancer is well established," Rosen said in the press release, citing examples. , such as that of Paul Erlich, winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1908, who found an arsenic-based cure for syphilis. Substances derived from arsenic, according to the FIU, "are still used to treat tropical diseases, prevent infections among poultry and as a therapeutic treatment for leukemia."
Rosen added that while most potential drugs fail at the clinical testing stage, it's worth the effort. "If new substances are not tested, it is not known which ones can be effective."