University of Salford researchers stumble upon major breakthrough

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Cancer researchers at the University of Salford may have stumbled upon a major breakthrough in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. While working on developing a new class of cancer therapies, the team discovered that these novel mitochondrial inhibitors also had broad-spectrum antibiotic activity.

“A little like Alexander Fleming, we weren’t even looking for antibiotics, rather researching into new compounds that might be effective against cancer stem cells,” explained Michael P. Lisanti, Chair of Translational Medicine at the University’s Biomedical Research Centre.

The team identified 4 new classes of mitochondrial inhibitors which effectively inhibited the propagation of cancer stem-like cells in vitro. However, the drugs were also shown to prevent the growth of both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, Candida albicans, and even methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The new antibiotics have been given the name ‘mitoriboscins’.

“We have accidently invented a new strategy for identifying and designing new antibiotics to target drug resistant bacteria,” added Professor Lisanti. “This was under our nose. The bottleneck with antibiotic discovery has been that there was no obvious systematic starting point. We may now have one. These broad-spectrum antibiotics were discovered, by simply screening candidates first on mitochondria in cancer cells.”

The paper is published in the journal Oncotarget.