McMaster entrepreneur (Synmedix) uses baking soda to supercharge antibiotic

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It was by chance that McMaster University professor Eric Brown found a possible solution to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance: bicarbonate.

Now, helped by $300,000 from the seed fund sponsored by McMaster’s vice-president, research, his start-up firm Synmedix will soon test a new topical preparation of bicarbonate mixed with the antibiotic azithromycin to treat infected diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs).

This potentially game-changing solution is called BCX and, if successful, could both combat drug-resistant bacteria and help develop a thriving biotech sector in Hamilton.

“It is crazy because it is so simple,” said Brown, a Distinguished University Professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences at McMaster and a member of Canada’s Global Nexus for Pandemics and Biological Threats as well as the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research.

Brown said there are currently no topical antibiotics that can treat diabetic foot ulcers, which every year affect 140 million people with diabetes worldwide. Of these patients, half will suffer a diabetic foot ulcer infection, which is often difficult to treat with oral antibiotics, owing, in part, to drug-resistant bacteria.

He said that bicarbonate’s effectiveness could be explained by the role it plays in helping the immune system fight off harmful bacteria and other pathogens.

While this is still “just a hypothesis,” as Brown put it, bicarbonate could nonetheless be a key ingredient in the development of new antibiotics to combat drug-resistant bacteria.

He said that adding bicarbonate both improves the uptake of azithromycin into infected cells and expands the activity of many drugs against both gram-negative and gram-positive pathogens. A bacterium is defined as either gram-negative or positive depending on if they appear purple under a microscope when coloured with crystal violet during gram-stain tests.

Secondly, the ability of bicarbonate ions to drive increased uptake of drugs by infected cells overcomes both the intrinsic and acquired form of drug resistance in bacteria, Brown said.

“The next stage for BCX is trials in humans, which we can fast track as azithromycin is already being used and bicarbonate is so benign,” said Brown.

Read the full Brighter World article here


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