The fight against antibiotic resistant superbug MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus) might be won by a light activated drug being developed in London.
A University of Otago graduate who grew up on a Lower Waitaki dairy farm, Linda Dekker, is a member of the team working on the drug.
The golden staph can cause skin abscesses, post-operative wound infections and pneumonia and, through the toxins it produces, toxic shock syndrome.
Ms Dekker’s group chemically joined a light-activated drug, tin chlorin e6, to a protein fragment. The protein fragment fits the shape of a molecule found on the surface of MRSA.
On its own, the drug, once exposed to light of the right frequency, can kill MRSA cells but, potentially, also human cells.
Its combination with the protein fragment puts it closer to the target cells and is expected to prevent it from harming human tissue.
“When attached to the protein fragment, it will kill just the bacteria, because it can attach to the bacteria and get closer to it, hence more localised killing,” Ms Dekker said.
The drug would have to go through animal trials before it could be used for trials on people.