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Drug created by UC scientist shows effectiveness against even antibiotic-resistant 'superbugs'

man in hat holds a test tube, with other scientific devices in foreground and background.
Colleen Kelley
UC Creative + Brand
Daniel Hassett, PhD, professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Microbiology at the UC College of Medicine.

When it comes to burn injuries, it's often an ensuing infection like sepsis that results in deadly outcomes. In recently published study results, a drug patented by a UC professor has shown to be effective against infection-causing bacteria, even antibiotic-resistant bacteria often referred to as "superbugs."

"Industry and academics are having a very difficult time keeping up with (superbugs). You develop an antibiotic and within five to 10 years all of a sudden they develop a resistance to it and you're back to the drawing board," explains Daniel Hassett, PhD, professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Microbiology at the UC College of Medicine. "With AB569 there's no possibility for resistance of the organism."

AB569 is a combination of acidified nitrite and EDTA (or ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid). Hassett explains both components are inexpensive, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and non-toxic to humans while be very toxic to bad organism - it kills bacteria while doing no harm to skin or organs. It can be used as a topical ointment, an aerosol, or a liquid.

The study published in the journal Infection and Immunity, co-authored by Latha Satish, PhD, director of clinical lab operations at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, finds the drug kills the bugs when applied to burn wounds, but also significantly increases anti-inflammatory mediators, promoting healing.

The drug could also be effective in treating all kinds of other antibiotic-resistant organisms. For example, bugs that cause pulmonary infections in patients with cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or infections related to severe burns, urinary tract disorders, endocarditis and diabetic wound infections.

"This study provides solid foundational evidence that AB569 can be used topically to treat highly problematic dermal [injuries] including wound, burn, blast and likely diabetic infections in civilian and military populations and help relieve the economical burden that MDR (multidrug resistant) organisms have on the global health care system," says Hassett.

A lot more testing - and funding - are required before the product could come to market. Hassett says that is still two to three years away.

Disclosures from UC: Hassett is a stockholder and principal scientist at Arch Biopartners. AB569 is currently in a Phase 1 human trial at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center in healthy volunteers testing its safety and pharmacokinetic profile. AB569 has been licensed by the University of Cincinnati exclusively to Arch Biopartners, a Toronto-based publicly traded biotechnology company.

University of Cincinnati is a financial supporter of Cincinnati Public Radio.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.