As drug-resistant bacteria continue to challenge the existing armamentarium of antibiotics and scant new options emerge from the pipeline, scientists and clinicians are exploring a new strategy that may make existing drugs more effective and prevent new resistant strains from emerging.
They are seeking so-called antibiotic adjuvants. Just like adjuvants used for improving the immunogenicity of vaccines, these compounds enhance the action of antibiotics. They may do so through a variety of mechanisms, including by weakening the bacteria themselves, making them more vulnerable to antibiotics, or by interfering with bacterial mechanisms of antibiotic resistance. Teams working in this area have recently published or presented work highlighting promising antibiotic adjuvants—some found among drugs currently used for other applications, others derived from compounds in ocean environments.
Kuehn BM. Scientists Seek Antibiotic Adjuvants. JAMA. 2011;306(20):2203-2204. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1709