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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 December 2006, 00:34 GMT
New drugs 'could halve treatment'
Antibiotic treatments in the future could involve drug combinations
A new generation of antibiotics could halve the length of time people need to take medication, scientists say.

London researchers are developing what they hope will be the first of these - a compound to treat the hospital superbug MRSA in the nose.

It tackles bacteria currently "left behind" because they are resistant to standard antibiotics.

The anti-MRSA drug will be tested in humans next year and may be available in five years.

You might be able to get a treatment course which lasts one or two days, rather than the current five to seven
Professor Clive Page
King's College London

Developing a way of tackling antibiotic resistance is important because it could mean the antibiotics which already exist could be given a longer life.

At the moment, years of work can be put into developing a conventional antibiotic but it may be possible to use it for around only 18 months before resistance develops.

Family of drugs

HT61 is being developed as a cream to tackle persistent MRSA bacteria in the nose, the most important part of the body where it is carried.

Many hospitals already test people before they come in for operations to see if they are carriers of MRSA.

But, like all bacterial infections, it is made up of two forms of bacteria - the fast-dividing sort targeted by existing antibiotics - and non-multiplying, or persistent, bacteria.

It is this latter form that lurks in the body and causes repeat infection, and can lead to resistance if it is exposed to medication.

HT61, which has been tested in the lab and in "very successful" animal trials, is effective against persistent MRSA bacteria.

It will be tested on around 60 people next year.

Sir Anthony Coates, professor of medical microbiology at St George's Medical School, who is leading the research, said research so far showed HT61 was "potent against MRSA".

The team may later seek to tackle MRSA once it has got inside the body.

They will also look at producing treatments which can treat lurking bacteria in sore throats and tuberculosis infections.

Clive Page, professor of pharmacology at King's College London, who is also working on the study, said the work opened up the possibility of a whole family of drugs which could treat persistent bacteria in a range of conditions.

He said: "It may lead to us providing a combination of drugs - one to target the dividing bacteria and one to target the persistent form.

"If you take something like penicillin, and put this with it, you might be able to get a treatment course which lasts one or two days, rather than the current five to seven."

Antibiotic runny nose 'warning'
20 Jul 06 |  Health

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