Research highlight

Old drugs as new antibiotics

Nature Chemical Biology

April 25, 2011

An alternative way to re-use existing antibiotics, by combining them with other non-antibiotic drugs, is presented in a paper published online this week in Nature Chemical Biology. These findings could bring new life to existing antibiotics.

Bacterial infections are increasingly resistant to currently available drugs, making the identification of new ways to kill unwanted microbes increasingly important.

Eric Brown, Gerard Wright and colleagues tested combinations of known drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and inflammatory diseases, amongst other indications, with antibiotics to look for cases where the combination works better than the single drugs alone. They identify a number of cases where a non-antibiotic drug can somehow weaken bacterial cells, allowing the proven antibiotics to kill the bacteria. In particular, they report that loperamide ― sold as Imodium to treat diarrhea ― can ‘sensitize’ cells to a variety of tetracycline antibiotics by interfering with normal membrane function, an unexpected role for this molecule.

doi: 10.1038/nchembio.559

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