Scientists are developing a new antibiotic for gonorrhea

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Antibiotic resistant strains of gonorrhea have in recent years set off public health alarms, but now scientists have made a breakthrough in fighting the sexually transmitted infection. A study out of the University of York shows that carbon monoxide-releasing molecules could be the key to developing a new antibiotic to treat gonorrhea.

Researchers targeted the bacteria that causes gonorrhea with chemical compounds that release controlled amounts of carbon monoxide. The gas can be poisonous to humans by bonding with hemoglobin cells and preventing them from properly transporting oxygen through the blood, and at much tinier scales, carbon monoxide can have much the same deadly effect on the gonorrhea bacteria.

SEE ALSO: Study: A Common Mouthwash May Fight Oral Gonorrhea

"The carbon monoxide molecule targets the engine room, stopping the bacteria from respiring," co-author Ian Fairlamb said in a press release. He explained that carbon monoxide only needs to knock out a single enzyme in the bacteria to stop it from creating oxygen and thus kill it. "We are looking at a molecule that can be released in a safe and controlled way to where it is needed."

The next step is to incorporate these findings into an antibiotic pill or cream that can be evaluated for its ability to fight off the infection. But the researchers describe this study as an important step that holds promise in finding a better gonorrhea treatment that works very differently from conventional antibiotics. Given that gonorrhea is already developing antibiotic resistance, such a new treatment is needed, and soon.

"Antimicrobial resistance is a massive global problem which isn't going away," said co-author James Moir in the release. "We need to use many different approaches, and the development of new drugs using bio-inorganic chemistry is one crucial way we can tackle this problem, to control important bacterial pathogens before the current therapies stop working."

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This illustration depicts a three-dimensional (3D) computer-generated image of a number of drug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeaediplococcal bacteria. Note that extending from the organisms’ exterior were type IV pili, or hair-like appendages, which in this case, are used to promote motility for these bacteria, and improve surface adherence. The artistic recreation was based upon scanning electron micrographic imagery. (Photo via CDC)
Gonococci Or Neisseria Gonorrhoeae In An Uretral Pus. This Bacterium Is Reponsible For Gonorrhea Blennorrhagia Or Clap, Urethritis, Vaginitis Sexually Transmitted Disease. Microscopy X 600. (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 2003: Microphotograph of gonococcus (Neisseria gonorrhoeae), bacteria which causes gonorrhea. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
Gonococci Or Neisseria Gonorrhoeae In An Uretral Pus. This Bacterium Is Reponsible For Gonorrhea Blennorrhagia Or Clap, Urethritis, Vaginitis Sexually Transmitted Disease. Microscopy X 600. (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)
Gonococci Or Neisseria Gonorrhoeae In An Uretral Pus. This Bacterium Is Reponsible For Gonorrhea Blennorrhagia Or Clap, Urethritis, Vaginitis Sexually Transmitted Disease. Microscopy X 600. (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 11: Dr. Vanessa Allen leads an international effort to deal with growing problem of drug-resistant gonorrhea. She has just published a ground-breaking study in the Journal of American Medicine based on research conducted at a government lab in Etobicoke that looked at samples from Ontario patients. The medical microbiologist is seen in her public health lab with a plate of cultured Neisseria ganorrhoeae. 13-01-11 Richard Lautens/Toronto Star (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Health awareness poster features a stalwart soldier accompanied by the text 'Fight ... syphilis and gonorrhea,' 1943. Included are several tips 'Avoid exposure,' 'Avoid pickups and prostitutes,' 'If exposed, use prophylaxis,' and 'If infected, see a medical officer.' (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Red-tinted poster (by Charles Casa) features a woman in a feathered hat as she smokes a cigarette and leans against a shadowed brick wall on a street corner, accompanied by the text 'Easy to Get...Syphilis and Gonorrhea,' 1940. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
She may be; a bag of TROUBLE. Syphilis  Gonorrhea. U.S. Public Health Service, United States, 1940s. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
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The post Scientists Are Developing A New Antibiotic For Gonorrhea appeared first on Vocativ.

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