Researchers at the University of Michigan have identified new targets for
drugs that could potentially treat anthrax, the deadly infection caused by Bacillus anthracis.
The team, led by David
Sherman, the Hans W. Vahlteich Professor of Medicinal Chemistry in UM’s College
of Pharmacy and a faculty member at the U-M Life Sciences Institute, found a
new way to block the bacteria’s ability to capture iron, which is vital to its
survival and its disease-causing properties.
By discovering the
mechanism by which B. anthracis
obtains iron, the researchers are now able to search rapidly for powerful new
antibiotics to effectively treat or prevent deadly anthrax infections. Not only
does this finding open the door to possible treatments for anthrax infections,
it also indicates possibilities for discovery and development of powerful new
continues to be a serious security threat, as there are inadequate responses to
natural or engineered drug-resistant forms of the microorganism,” said Sherman.
This work highlights
studies on a new drug target that could lead to development of broad-spectrum
antibiotics, which are urgently needed to respond to the increased incidence of
drug-resistant infectious agents like anthrax.
While an actual treatment
for anthrax remains several years away, according to Sherman, the researchers are using
high-throughput screening in the Center for Chemical Genomics at the Life
Sciences Institute to identify the most effective potential drugs.
“We are already following
active extracts from a large natural products library and hope to have new
structures of antibiotic molecules very soon,” Sherman said. “Our efforts are part of a
major program funded by the Great Lakes Regional Center of Excellence for
Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Disease to identify new small molecule
antibiotics and vaccines against biowarfare agents and other high-risk
The current study has
inspired the team to take a similar approach, also in collaboration with the
Center for Chemical Genomics, in the search for new antibiotics active against
aureus, a multidrug-resistant staph infection.
The anthrax findings were
published in the Journal of Biological