Sunday, 14 April, 2024
HomeNews UpdateDying UK scientist’s breakthrough with new class of antibiotics

Dying UK scientist’s breakthrough with new class of antibiotics

Britain’s Kirsty Smitten (28), has achieved something that hasn't been done for nearly 40 years: created a new class of antibiotics, leading the fight against anti-microbial resistance – what the WHO calls one of the biggest threats to global health.

However, in a devastating twist of fate, the biochemist has been given just months to live after being diagnosed with heart cancer – a terminal disease so rare it affects only two people a year in the UK.

The young scientist is “gutted”, reports the Daily Mail. “I eat healthily. I don’t drink much, I don’t smoke. And, until my diagnosis, I played sport every day. There aren’t words to express how sad I feel that I might not be around to see how our potentially Nobel Prize-winning work might unfold. My only hope is that the work carries on without me.”

Drug-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, are already blamed for more than 1m deaths each year, and by 2050, it’s predicted this could rise to 10m.

With her team at Metallo Bio, a company she established with the support of her doctorate supervisor at Sheffield University, Smitten has developed two antibiotic compounds to treat bacterial infections, including strands of pneumonia and meningitis that have become resistant to the drugs usually used to treat them, as well as infections that develop in wounds and after surgery.

After proving successful in laboratory and animal testing, the next stage in development will be human trials, beginning with hospital-acquired pneumonia. If, as expected, it proves effective, she hopes the treatment will be licensed by 2030.

The scientist, who has a PhD in chemistry and, in 2020, was named in Forbes magazine’s prestigious 30 Under 30 list for science and healthcare.

Her bid to save the world

Smitten’s company has created two substances using ruthenium, a rare platinum-type metal that has been shown to kill some of the most drug-resistant – and deadly – bugs.

Although they face a number of years of testing, these could eventually be used to coat medical devices such as catheters and stents, sites where drug-resistant infections can often be found lurking.

Smitten has cardiac angiosarcoma – a tumour in her heart. If she opted for the surgery needed to remove it, there is a significant risk she would bleed to death. And if she survived the operation, she would, at most, gain only a few more years. This type of tumour will grow back and is likely to spread or burst, causing her heart to fail.


Daily Mail article – At just 28, Kirsty has achieved something that hasn't been done for nearly 40 years – created a new class of antibiotics – but devastatingly, she now has just months left to live (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Search for a new class of antibiotics


CRISPR technology makes significant headway in cancer treatment


Urgent need for more funds to fight AMR drug resistance


Over-prescribed antibiotics cause significant harm – large US analysis


WHO report highlights lack of progress towards new antibiotics








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