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USF Researchers Discover Potential Antibiotic Cure for MRSA

Team awarded patent for novel antibiotic compounds targeting MRSA and other drug resistant infections.


Video by Katy Hennig | USF News

By Katy Hennig      
     USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 28, 2015) - A breakthrough discovery in antibiotic compounds used to treat resistant strains of bacteria has earned University of South Florida Associate Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Biology Lindsey (Les) Shaw Ph.D. and microbiology graduate student Whittney Burda a U.S. Patent for their novel research.

The research team works with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other drug resistant bacteria, and has now developed a compound that is effective in treating difficult to cure infections.

“The problem that we have in this country and globally is we develop antibiotics, but resistance develops very quickly so we are in a position where we have still an enormous number of infections but very limited treatment options for people,” said Shaw.

Photo by Aimee Blodgett | USF News

Shaw and Burda have conducted a series of testing by screening compounds in collaboration with several USF researchers and after years of lab studies, recently proved the compounds to be successful in treating MRSA.

The discovery comes after years of innovative research and innovation at USF, developing new compounds for fighting infections that are becoming increasingly hard to treat. According to Shaw, the new compounds are uniquely suited to combat particularly dangerous infections. “We’ve been working on a class of compounds, the chemical name is quinazoline, and we’ve developed novel versions of these which seem to work against MRSA, which kills tens of thousands of people every year and causes hundreds of thousands of infections,” said Shaw. “They work not only against MSRA, but also Acinetobacter, which affects troops in the Middle East and is another bacteria that causes a lot of problems, kills a lot of people, is very drug resistant and hard to treat.”

Photo by Katy Hennig | USF News

As a graduate research student, Burda has worked with screening the compounds against bacteria to uncover potential treatments. “We have found a group of compounds that work really well against both Acinetobacter and Staphylococcus,” Burda explained. “Typically what we do is we start out doing what’s called the Kirby Bauer assay, or disc diffusions. We take those samples that they give us and then screen them to find out which ones work best, so what modifications work best against the bacteria.” In December, the team received a patent for their discovery, which is more than half way along on the course for clinical testing and bringing a new antibiotic to the market.


Photo by Aimee Blodgett | USF News

The compounds that Shaw and the research team have developed fall within a group that is known to be effective for the treatment of a range of infections. With slight modifications, the discovery changes the structure of the antibiotic and maintains its efficacy. “The quinazoline class has been around a long time to treat a lot of different things, but the one that we’ve developed chemically are different to those that existed before, so discovered entirely here at USF, created and designed here at USF specifically toward MRSA and Acinetobacter infections; so chemically they are completely different to anything that people have done before,” said Shaw.

What’s Next?

The compounds will enter into preclinical testing and continue to be modified and developed to refine and create the most effective drug with the least side effects. There are other promising signs from the compounds, indicating that the use be applicable to a range of difficult to treat infections.

“If they continue to clear the hurdles as they do, they are quite promising,” said Shaw. “We do find that they work against a certain type of bacterial growth called biofilms; so when things go into the human body such a pace-makers, pins and plates, biofilms develop on those and they are very had to treat, even more so than regular infections. Some of these compounds are quite effective at targeting cells that grow in these biofilms, so this is another plus of this class of drugs that makes it very exciting.”


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