SCIENTISTS at the University of York, UK have identified carbon monoxide-releasing molecules (CO-RMs) as an antimicrobial substance that can be developed for the treatment of the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhoea.
Prof James Moir, Department of Biology, University of York, UK, and colleagues have demonstrated that Trypto-CO-RM, a tryptophan-containing manganese(I) carbonyl, is toxic against Neisseria gonorrhoeae in the absence of photoactivation. The team consider this is an important development in the fight against antibiotic resistance which has resulted in gonorrhoea becoming more difficult to treat.
According to the National Health Service (NHS) Choices website, almost 35,000 cases of gonorrhoea were reported in England during 2014, with most cases affecting men and women <25. Prof Moir and the team also reported that gonorrhoea is more sensitive to CO-based toxicity than other model bacterial pathogens, marking it as a viable candidate for antimicrobial therapy using CO-RMs.
In a statement, Prof Ian Fairlamb, Department of Chemistry, University of York, UK, who was also involved in the study, explained how CO-RMs can be used to treat the infection. “The carbon monoxide molecule targets the engine room, stopping the bacteria from respiring. Gonorrhoea only has one enzyme that needs inhibiting and then it cannot respire oxygen and it dies,” he said.
“People will be well aware that CO is a toxic molecule but that is at high concentrations. Here we are using very low concentrations which we know the bacteria are sensitive to. We are looking at a molecule that can be released in a safe and controlled way to where it is needed,” Prof Fairlamb continued.
The team explain that the next stage of research is to develop a drug treatment that can be tested in future clinical trials. “We think our study is an important breakthrough. It is not the final drug yet but it is pretty close to it. People might perceive gonorrhoea as a trivial bacterial infection, but the disease is becoming more dangerous and resistant to antibiotics,” Prof Fairlamb said.
Prof Moir explained: “Antimicrobial resistance is a massive global problem which is not going away. We need to use many different approaches, and the development of new drugs using bioinorganic chemistry is one crucial way we can tackle this problem, to control important bacterial pathogens before the current therapies stop working.”
Jack Redden, Reporter