Mya Care Blogger 02 May 2023

Researchers have been looking for a cure for multidrug-resistant superbugs for many years. Interestingly, they could now have discovered the answer in gold, a valuable metal.

There are 19 gold-based compounds that effectively cure multidrug-resistant superbugs, according to a new study that was presented at the 2023 European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases in Copenhagen in the week of April 15.

It is possible to say that gold-based drugs have a lot of potential as new antibiotics, according to the Spanish researchers who presented the study, given that all of the compounds were effective against at least one difficult-to-treat bacterium. In addition, some of them were effective against multiple.

Understanding Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial illnesses, but with each dose, there is a greater chance of creating superbugs or bacterial strains that are resistant to several types of antibiotics. Sometimes that occurs due to antibiotic overuse, which occurs when they are prescribed, but not essential, such as for viral illnesses like the flu.

Superbugs, according to specialists, can also emerge when patients discontinue an antibiotic regimen in the middle of a course of therapy, resulting in the death of just the weakest cells. At the same time, the more robust, more resistant bacteria multiply and mutate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opines this antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria and fungi gain the ability to withstand the medications used to kill them, rendering them nearly untreatable.

According to the WHO, one of the major hazards to human health is antibiotic resistance. Globally, drug-resistant infections claim the lives of roughly 700,000 people each year; if nothing is done, that number is expected to climb to 10 million by the year 2050. Additionally, the development of new antibiotics has slowed, making antibiotic resistance one of the biggest public health threats faced by the world.

What Is The Role Of Gold?

Gold is a critical material in the healthcare industry, according to research from the World Gold Council. Although the need for gold in the technology industry is still tiny compared to the overall market, it is rising swiftly. This precious metal is employed in many diagnostic equipment.

The use of gold in medicine has been documented throughout history for thousands of years. Due to their anti-rheumatic and anticancer properties, gold compounds are now regarded as having clinical value. Different families of gold(I/III) have also been explored, and there is growing interest in these compounds as antibacterial agents.

Even though the antibacterial properties of gold(III) complexes have received less research than those of their gold(I) counterparts, the threat posed by multiresistant bacteria has prompted researchers to consider the bactericidal properties of these traditional anticancer metallodrugs.

Gold metalloantibiotics, or compounds having an ion of gold at their center, are an intriguing prospective new treatment method because it is now known that gold has antibacterial properties. Therefore, they offer a promising new approach due to their antibacterial effects.

The various techniques used by gold-based antibiotics to kill bacteria damage their DNA, interfere with the functioning of the bacterial membrane, and prevent enzymes from working. Antimicrobial resistance is unlikely to develop thanks to this multimodal process.

A group of Spanish researchers have now looked into this, testing 19 gold-based compounds, and discovered that all of them were successful against at least one difficult-to-treat bacterium, with some of them being effective against multiple.

What Does The Research Say?

In a press release earlier, The European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases said the ground-breaking study based on gold was scheduled for presentation at the next European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Dr. Sara M. Soto González and her team evaluated 19 gold-based compounds against various difficult-to-treat bacteria as part of the study at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health in Barcelona, Spain. Sixteen (or 84%) of the compounds were successful in treating infections that were resistant to medication.

The 19 gold compounds investigated have been shown to be effective against various multidrug-resistant bacteria samples obtained from ill individuals despite belonging to the same family but having slightly varied structures.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which can cause skin and other infections, Staphylococcus epidermidis, which can cause catheter-associated infections, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, which can result in infections including pneumonia, Acinetobacter baumannii, which can cause blood and urinary tract infections and pneumonia, and Escherichia coli, which causes pneumonia and urinary tract infections were the six bacteria studied.

All these strains that were studied were multidrug resistant. Four of the bacteria from the study have been recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) (S. aureus, A. baumannii, P. aeruginosa, and E. coli) as "priority pathogens" because they are antibiotic-resistant and pose a severe threat to human health. In addition, the lungs in patients with cystic fibrosis are increasingly being found to harbor multidrug-resistant S. maltophilia.

In experiments, MRSA and S. epidermidis were successfully inhibited by 84% of the gold compounds.

The gold metalloantibiotics all successfully combated the remaining 16 gram-negative bacteria. However, antibiotic resistance in gram-negative bacteria is more pronounced, making the need for novel therapies even more urgent.

"All of the gold compounds were effective against at least one of the bacterial species studied, and some displayed potent activity against several multidrug-resistant bacteria," Soto González stated in the press release.

As the two most common causes of hospital-acquired infections, it is particularly encouraging to learn that several of the gold complexes were effective against MRSA and multidrug-resistant A. baumannii.

"Gold (III) complexes, the kind of gold complexes we examined, are comparatively simple and affordable to produce. The doctor continued that they are also simple to modify, which opens up a ton of potential for therapeutic development. The future is optimistic for gold-based antibiotics, as evidenced by research on different varieties of gold metalloantibiotics.

According to the study, gold complexes kill bacteria using several methods, such as inhibiting the activity of enzymes, interfering with the operation of the bacterial membrane, and causing DNA damage. According to scientists, this procedure should stop the emergence of antibiotic resistance.

The Bottom Line

Gold-based antibiotics have a bright future. Due to their antibacterial properties, substances having a gold ion at their center present a promising new treatment strategy.

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  • Ratia, Carlos, et al. “Gold-Derived Molecules as New Antimicrobial Agents.” Frontiers, 21 Feb. 2022,

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