<figcaption> Credit: Courtesy of Dan Barouch</figcaption>
Credit: Courtesy of Dan Barouch

The paper:

J. Wang et al., "Platensimycin is a selective FabF inhibitor with potent antibiotic properties," Nature, 441:358-61, 2006. (Cited in 91 papers)

The discovery:

Sifting through South African soil samples, scientists at Merck Research Laboratories found a new compound called platensimycin. It is effective against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and other multiple-drug-resistant bacteria, thus representing an entirely new class of antibiotic. The researchers used X-ray crystallography and direct-binding assays to show that platensimycin kills bacteria by binding to a key intermediate, called FabF, in enzyme-mediated lipid construction, thus short-circuiting bacterial fatty acid synthesis.

The method of action:

Eric Brown, a biochemist at McMaster University in Canada, hails the Merck team's multidisciplinary approach to revealing platensimycin's mode of action. "It's very difficult, for example, to show that a small molecule would have an affinity for an intermediate in an enzyme-driven reaction," he says.

The unknown:...

The future:

Last year, Nicolaou and colleagues synthesized carbaplatensimycin, a platensimycin analog that shows similar antibiotic potency. Though platensimycin may be the latest weapon against drug-resistant bacteria, Nicolaou warns: "I doubt that this will be the end of the war against bacteria."

Platensimycin vs. Linezolid (minimum inhibitory concentration)
Platensimycin Linezolid
S. aureus (MSSA) 0.5 μg/ml 4 μg/ml
S. aureus (MRSA) 0.5 μg/ml 2 μg/ml
Enterococcus faecium (vancomycin-resistant) 0.1 μg/ml 2 μg/ml

Correction (posted May 23): When originally posted, the story referenced μg/ml incorrectly as mg/ml. That correct reference is μg/ml. The references have been corrected, and The Scientist regrets the errors.

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