Chirality could be key to overcoming antibiotic resistance


‘Flexicates’ are active against MRSA and E.coli, but have low toxicity

Scientists at the University of Warwick in the UK have created a new synthetic class of helix-shaped molecules that they believe could be a key tool in the worldwide battle against antibiotic resistance.

By twisting molecules around iron atoms they have created what they term ‘flexicates’, which are active against MRSA and E coli but which also appear to have low toxicity, reducing the potential for side-effects.

Published in Nature Chemistry,* the research uses chiral technology to attack a specific disease and paves the way towards a more targeted approach to killing pathogens. In the case of E coli and MRSA, it is the S enantiomer that is most effective.

Professor Peter Scott of the University of Warwick’s chemistry department said although this particular study concentrated on flexicates’ activity against MRSA and E coli, the new method of assembly could also result in new treatments for other diseases. ‘It’s a whole new area of chemistry that really opens up the landscape to other practical uses.

‘These new molecules are synthetically flexible, which means that with a bit of tweaking they can be put to use against a whole host of different diseases, not just bugs like MRSA that are rapidly developing resistance to traditional antibiotics.

‘Flexicates are also easier to make and produce less waste than many current antibiotics.’

With flexicates, the University of Warwick scientists have succeeded in making enantiopure samples, opening the way to better absorption by the body and easier large-scale synthesis.

‘Our work means that we can now make whichever hand of the corkscrew we want, depending on the job we require it to do,’ said Professor Scott.

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*Optically pure, water-stable metallo-helical ‘flexicate’ assemblies with antibiotic activity, is published in Nature Chemistry.