(BPT) – They are called superbugs. As their name implies, they are difficult to treat — and deadly. Earlier this year, in fact, a Nevada woman was hospitalized following a trip to India and later died from a rare bacterial infection that didn’t respond to the 26 antibiotics approved for infectious diseases.
It is an ongoing cycle in science: bacteria evolve, researchers find antibiotics to defeat them, only for the bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance and the cycle starts all over again, posing an ongoing public health threat.
According to a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year, at least 2 million people in America get serious infections with bacteria that are resistant to one or more antibiotics designed to treat those infections, and these superbugs kill at least 23,000 annually as a result.
Shortly after the Nevada woman died, the World Health Organization urged infection researchers and the health care industry to identify ways to fight the most dangerous and life-threatening superbugs.
North Carolina biotech Novoclem Therapeutics is doing just that, but with a different approach. Novoclem has a potential new weapon against superbugs, harnessing the power of nitric oxide, a molecule that helps kill harmful bacteria in the human body.
Early research shows the Novoclem pipeline of nitric oxide-based therapies has the ability to kill leading superbugs considered public health threats, such as Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), a common, resistant strain of bacteria found in hospitals, and Mycobacterium abscessus, a bacterium distantly related to the ones that cause tuberculosis.
“The growth of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics is a potential problem for everyone; however, it is often a matter of life or death for those living with severe respiratory diseases,” noted Anne Whitaker, president and chief executive officer of Novoclem. “New products to combat multi-drug-resistant microorganisms are desperately needed. We are aiming to answer that need with our new nitric oxide product.”
Controlled release of nitric oxide via Novoclem’s novel technology-in-development mimics the body’s immune system response to disease-causing bacteria. Their first nitric oxide product is expected to be an inhaled formulation to treat severe lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients. Studies indicate the product is a broad spectrum antibiotic and can eliminate nine of the most common microorganisms found in the lungs of people living with cystic fibrosis.
Early studies show promise for the novel nitric oxide approach and additional studies are planned for this year to enable the start of clinical trials in humans next year.
If the therapy proves successful, a major public health crisis could be averted.
For more information about Novoclem and its technology platform, visit www.novoclem.com.