A new class of antibiotics — an exciting discovery but no substitute for antimicrobial stewardship

Last week, an article in Nature highlighted some progress in antibiotic discovery—a new antibiotic, named teixobactin, has been unearthed which could help in the treatment of resistant infections from bacteria like MRSA and antibiotic resistant M. tuberculosis.

It was discovered in a soil bacterium that has never been studied before and the discovery hints at the potential for other new antibiotics. Using new technology, scientists are now able to mine for new compounds (and potential antibiotics) like teixobactin from a vast population of microbes that was previously untapped. It is certainly cause for excitement, but it is important to keep some perspective. It's not a magic wand for the problem of antibiotic resistance. Here are a few points to keep in mind about the new discovery:

All this is a reminder of the continued importance of antibiotic stewardship. Even with potential new antibiotics in the pipeline, antimicrobial stewardship is necessary to slow the tide of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are essential medicines that are needed now to treat infections and to ensure that surgeries and treatments like chemotherapy can continue. So, antibiotics should be used judiciously, whether in hospitals or in animal agriculture. In human medicine, it means prescribing antibiotics for infections and not for colds. In animal agriculture, that means not using antibiotics for routine disease prevention or as a substitute for better management practices. Antimicrobial stewardship is important so that all antibiotics, the ones we have and use now as well as the ones waiting to be discovered, last for as long as possible.