A new antibiotic compound clears infection of multi-drug resistant gonorrhea in mice in a single oral dose, according to a new study led by researchers at Penn State and Emory University. The compound targets a molecular pathway found in bacteria but not humans and could lead to new treatments for gonorrhea and infections from other bacteria, such as tuberculosis and MRSA.


The research team, which also includes scientists from the biopharmaceutical company Microbiotix, the Uniformed Services University, and Florida State, published their results in a paper appearing March 19 in the journal Nature Communications.

Gonorrhea infects more than 500 thousand people in the United States each year, and several strains of the bacteria that causes the disease, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, are resistant to multiple antibiotics in use today. For this reason, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists multi-drug resistant gonorrhea as one of the five most dangerous urgent threats today.

“Many current antibiotics target the process of translation — when proteins are made based on information in genetic material — within the bacteria,” said Ken Keiler, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State and an author of the paper. “Over the last decade, we have been investigating a family of compounds that instead inhibit the trans-translation pathway in bacteria, which bacteria use to fix certain kinds of errors during protein synthesis. In this paper, we provide a proof-of-concept that inhibiting the trans-translation pathway can effectively clear multi-drug resistant gonorrhea in animals.”

Read more at Penn State University