New anthrax inhibitor could combat antibiotic-resistant strains

Note: This press release was updated on August 23, 2006.

Troy, N.Y. - In a new approach to treating anthrax exposure, a team of scientists has created an inhibitor designed to tackle the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant strains. Reporting in this week's online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Toronto describe the new anthrax toxin inhibitor, which performed successfully in both laboratory and animal tests.

Anthrax toxin, secreted by the anthrax bacterium, is made of proteins and toxic enzymes that bind together to inflict damage on a host organism. Rather than targeting the anthrax bacterium or toxin - the approach taken by the majority of current therapies - the new inhibitor blocks the receptors where anthrax toxin attaches in the body. And because the nanoscale assembly of molecules is designed to bind to multiple sites on the host receptor, it is naturally more potent.

The new approach led to a 50,000-fold increase in potency in cell culture, and the inhibitor protected rats from anthrax toxin in the study. The general concept also could be applied to designing inhibitors for other pathogens, including SARS, influenza, and AIDS, the researchers note.

ncreased research on possible therapeutics and vaccines to treat toxins that could be used as biological weapons. The current treatment for anthrax exposure is antibiotics, but the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains calls for new approaches to designing therapeutics for bioterrorism agents, according to Ravi Kane, the Merck Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Rensselaer and corresponding author of the PNAS paper.

Pathogens such as anthrax can become resistant to antibiotics through natural processes, but resistance also can be engineered intentionally. The team's new approach co

Contact: Jason Gorss
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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