Researchers in America have created a new way to identify drugs and drug combinations that may be useful in combating infections that are resistant to many different antibiotics.

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and the Clinical Center and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) developed a test to rapidly screen thousands of drugs to determine how effective they were against a resistant bacteria.

The method provides a potential new approach to repurpose known drugs and compounds to help deal with powerful, hospital-borne infections, as well as emerging infectious diseases.

NCATS scientist Wei Zheng, Ph.D., and NIH colleagues Peter Williamson, M.D., Ph.D., of NIAID, and Karen Frank, M.D., Ph.D. of the Clinical Center, used the test to screen 4,000 approved drugs and other biologically active compounds, identifying 25 that suppressed the growth of two drug-resistant strains of Klebsiella pneumoniae that have become resistant to most major types of antibiotics. Drug-resistant Klebsiella has been a source of fatal infections in many hospitals across the country.

The researchers also used the screening test to gauge the effectiveness of combinations of drugs against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They found three three-drug combinations that were effective against 10 common strains of multi-drug-resistant bacteria.

Wei Zheng said: “The results are very promising, and we think that the test can eventually help repurpose approved drugs and other compounds and find clinically relevant drug combinations that can be approved for to use in different ways that we have never used before. We’re hoping this approach will lead to approvable, effective ways to combat dangerous infections by drug-resistant bacteria.”