NUIG researchers progress in fight against antibiotic resistance
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NUIG researchers progress in fight against antibiotic resistance

Researchers based in Galway, Ireland, are working with a substance they believe may help in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The substance kills off any bacteria while leaving healthy tissue alone and as such the bugs have no opportunity to develop a resistance to the substance due to the way it works.

The National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) spin-out company Westway Health was formed in 2012 to develop and commercialise new antimicrobial substances, and the Horizon 2020 programme has invested €2.5m to bring the product to market.

The company’s CEO, Dr Ruairi Friel, says the funding should be enough support to get the product fully developed, tested for safety and efficacy and on the brink of full commercialisation in around three years.

The research team, which should consist of 11 scientists by the end of this year, has come up with new ways to wipe out bacteria without the risk of resistance.

“We have come up with two different systems that are highly effective at killing all bacteria, but that are highly unlikely to cause bacteria to develop resistance,” says Friel.

He describes the treatment as “bio-inspired” and based on the idea of using two substances that react with one another to produce an “antimicrobial bullet”, reactive oxygen that kills the bacteria while leaving healthy tissue alone.

“This is a huge problem in the dairy industry and in animal health. The US and EU dairy industries lose an estimated €3bn a year treating it,” adds Friel.

“We have something in development that is not an antibiotic, effectively works on all bacteria and because it works on a natural system this will be the world’s first non-withdraw treatment for mastitis,” he says.

Assuming the treatment is tolerated and works well on bovines, even bigger opportunities open up in human health, says Friel.