Researchers at Rice University have created a synthetic version of the fungus-derived antibiotic viridicatumtoxin B that could one day fight serious infections without contributing to antibiotic resistance. Viridicatumtoxin B is in the same class as tetracyclines, which have been used to treat diseases ranging from anthrax and plague to bacterial infections like chlamydia, syphilis, and Lyme disease, but is not readily found in nature; this reduces the risk of antibiotic resistance. By synthesizing viridicatumtoxin B, the team was able to create an antibiotic that performed as well as the natural one and was more effective against Gram-positive bacteria with a hydroxyl group removed. The success of the synthesized antibiotic with a simple modification could open the door to even greater efficacy in treating suprerbugs, although the authors warn that it could be years or decades before it is available to the public.
A fortuitous collaboration at Rice University has led to the total synthesis of a recently discovered natural antibiotic. Nicolaou and structural biologist Yousif Shamoo and their colleagues created and tested a number of variants of viridicatumtoxin B that could lead to the simplified synthesis of a new generation of more effective antibiotics.