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Researchers Working On A Multi-Target TB Drug That Could Treat Other Diseases

Update Date: Apr 18, 2014 11:10 AM EDT

Chemists have reportedly developed analogs of a new tuberculosis drug that could treat many other diseases defying resistance. The drug is under clinical trials and could be basis for a class of broad-spectrum drugs that act against various bacteria, fungal infections and parasites. 

Researchers determined different way the drug SQ109 attacked the tuberculosis bacterium and how it could be tweaked to target other pathogens form yeast to malaria. They also studied how targeting multiple pathways reduced the probability of pathogens becoming resistant. 

"Drug resistance is a major public health threat," said U. of I. chemistry professor Eric Oldfield, in the press release. "We have to make new antibiotics, and we have to find ways to get around the resistance problem. And one way to do that is with multitarget drugs. Resistance in many cases arises because there's a specific mutation in the target protein so the drug will no longer bind. Thus, one possible route to attacking the drug resistance problem will be to devise drugs that don't have just one target, but two or three targets."

After reading various reports related to SQ109, researchers realized the drug was likely to be multifunctional as it carried the chemical features similar to those found in other systems. 

"I was reading Science magazine one day and saw this molecule, SQ109, and I thought, that looks a bit like molecules we've been studying that have multiple targets," Oldfield added. "Given its chemical structure, we thought that some of the enzymes that we study as cancer and antiparasitic drug targets also could be SQ109 targets. We hoped that we could make some analogs that would be more potent against tuberculosis, and maybe even against parasites."

Oldfield said that multiple-target drugs, like SQ109 and its analogs, hold the key to antibiotic development in the age of drug resistance and the rise of so-called "superbugs." 

The work is being supported by The National Institutes of Health. 

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