A new class of antibiotics has been developed to counter the threat of antibiotic resistance. The new agents inhibit bacterial growth through a novel mechanism that poses no harm to body cells.

Current antibiotics work by disrupting the DNA synthesis or protein functions of bacteria.Nusbiarylins, the new class of anti-biotics, work by inhibiting the binding interaction between the bacterial proteins NusB and NusE. This interaction is required for the synthesis of bacterial ribosome proteins.

The structure of the two proteins was modelled computationally and 5,000 small molecules were screened for their ability to inhibit their binding interaction. The molecules that bound effectively to the proteins were then tested against different strains of cultured MRSA bacteria. The compound (E)-2-{[(3-ethynylphenyl)imino]methyl}-4-nitrophenol (MC4) showed high anti-bacterial activity. MC4 proved more effective at preventing MRSA growth than two common antibiotics on the market, oxacillin and gentamicin, even at a lower dose.

As NusB and NusE are only present in bacterial cells, the antibiotics pose no significant toxicity to human cells.

However, there is the possibility that bacteria will eventually evolve resistance to the new class of antibiotics, rendering the treatments useless in a few years. Even if Nusbiarylins prove to only be a short-term solution to the problem of resistance, new antibiotics will still be able to save the lives of many patients in this period.