to treat a wide range of bacterial infections like strep throat, pneumonia, bronchitis, and middle ear and sinus infections—makes it even more efficacious, while also significantly reducing the potential for the MRSA bacteria to become resistant in the future,” says Daniel Pilch, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Dr. Pilch and fellow scientists are racing to develop a new class of antibiotics to treat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections, which are responsible for 19,000 deaths annually and represent $3 billion in annual health care costs. The threat of MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant infections has become so severe that the World Health Organization predicts common infections and minor injuries could become life-threatening because of a lack of drug treatments available to destroy these bacterial infections. Last month, the first case in the United States of a patient with an infection resistant to all known antibiotics was reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Current standard-of-care drugs for the treatment of MRSA infections are limited,” says Dr. Pilch. “Furthermore, resistance to these drugs is on the rise, and their clinical effectiveness is likely to diminish in the future.” Dr. Pilch says TXA709 kills MRSA bacteria in a unique 28 Robert Wood Johnson I MEDICINE manner, unlike any other antibiotic in current clinical use, by inhibiting the function of a protein, FtsZ, essential for the bacteria to divide and survive. By combining TXA709 with cefdinir, a cephalosporin antibiotic that acts much like penicillin, scientists have been able to lower the dosage of the new antibiotic required to eradicate the MRSA infection. “This is significant,” Dr. Pilch says, “because it decreases the potential for any drug-induced toxicity and side effects that might occur from a higher dosage. “What is also good about this experimental treatment is that both drugs can be taken orally, which means they can be administered on an outpatient basis,” says Dr. Pilch, who collaborated with Edmond LaVoie, PhD, professor and chair, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Rutgers’ Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy. “All but two of the current antibiotics being used clinically to treat “What is also good about MRSA need to be adminthis experimental treatment istered intravenously,” is that both drugs can be he adds. taken orally, which means In September 2016, they can be administered the U.S. Food and Drug on an outpatient basis,” Administration granted says Dr. Pilch (above), with TXA709 a Qualified InMalvika Kaul, instructor, fectious Disease Product Department of Pharmacology. (QIDP) designation for the treatment of acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections caused by MRSA. Part of the Generating Antibiotics Incentives Now (GAIN) Act of 2012, the QIDP designation encourages the development of new antimicrobial drugs to combat the global threat posed by multidrug-resistant microbes, and it confers TXA709 with eligibility for fast-track status. Researchers say that clinical trials on the new antibiotic, which will assess and evaluate its safety and effectiveness in humans, are expected to begin next spring. M