Old drugs, new cures for superbugs

Glasgow University hails promising results in the battle against the MRSA superbug
Glasgow University hails promising results in the battle against the MRSA superbug
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Scottish scientists are using old drugs as a new way of treating antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

They have found that, when combined, two antibiotic drugs previously believed to be ineffective against MRSA can successfully treat a strain of the infection.

Scientists from several universities, including Glasgow and St Andrews, also had success managing antibiotic-resistant infections with drugs traditionally used to treat cancer and arthritis.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA, is a major cause of hospital-acquired infections in Scotland.

These bacteria are resistant to the most widely used antibiotics, including penicillin, methicillin and carbapenems.

The team found that a strain of MRSA was susceptible to a combination of penicillin and clavulanic acid – another common antibiotic.

Scientists hope that re-purposing older drugs no longer used to treat MRSA could transform the treatment of patients with recurring infections.

The number of infections complicated by superbugs is expected to rise and routine treatments could become “high-risk” because of growing resistance to antibiotics.

Professor Ruth Zadoks, from the University of Glasgow, said the research had shown promising new treatments.

“MRSA is a particular problem in Scotland, and what is really interesting about this concept is that it’s not just drugs that were used traditionally to treat bacterial infections. We are also finding cancer drugs and drugs used to treat arthritis are having an effect.”

During their research, scientists discovered that one drug traditionally given to cancer patients was successful in treating a common antibiotic-resistant skin infection.