UK approves first new antibiotic in over 20 years that kills superbugs causing UTIs

The first new antibiotic in over 20 years capable of treating painful bladder infections will be approved in the UK after a groundbreaking study showed it to be highly effective.

The drug, called potidacin, outperformed any of the antibiotics currently used to treat NHS patients suffering from the infections, curing more than half of the participants who took it.

Experts believe that gepotidacin – which was discovered in Britain – represents a huge step forward in the fight against antibiotic resistance, as the insects have had no chance to develop resistance to the attacks.

These drug-resistant insects are responsible for tens of thousands of aggressive, recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) in the UK each year.

GSK, the pharmaceutical company that developed the drug, is in talks with UK medical regulators about green relief from potidacin for NHS patients with drug-resistant infections.

TEST WORK: A scientist analyzing antibiotic resistance

TEST WORK: A scientist analyzing antibiotic resistance

Dozens of people in the UK have already undergone the treatment as part of the global trial, the results of which were presented yesterday at a scientific conference in Copenhagen.

“This drug offers hope for patients with recurrent urinary tract infections who need a new treatment,” said Dr Aruni Mulgirigama of GSK.

“This is a condition that can disrupt patients’ lives, leaving them fatigued by the experience of constantly battling these infections. The data shows that this drug helps those most at risk for these infections.”

Up to 1.7 million Britons – the majority of whom are women – suffer from chronic urinary tract infections, classified as three or more infections per year. Symptoms include a burning pain when going to the toilet, having to go more often than usual, and feeling like you have to go when the bladder is empty.

In elderly patients, the infection can cause a dementia-like condition called delirium. There is also a risk of sepsis, which accounts for about 50,000 deaths each year.

While there are a number of antibiotics that can treat urinary tract infections, these medications have become less effective over time because bacteria can build up resistance to antibiotics.

Studies suggest that the NHS treats around 150 drug-resistant bacterial infections every day. Some estimates suggest that as many as 10,000 people in the UK die each year as a result of these superbugs.

However, developing new antibiotics is time consuming and expensive and many large pharmaceutical companies are no longer investing in antibiotic research. This means that, despite the increasing threat of superbugs, no new antibiotic has been developed in more than two decades.

Up to 1.7 million Britons - the majority of whom are women - suffer from chronic urinary tract infections, classified as three or more infections per year (file photo)

Up to 1.7 million Britons - the majority of whom are women - suffer from chronic urinary tract infections, classified as three or more infections per year (file photo)

Up to 1.7 million Britons – the majority of whom are women – suffer from chronic urinary tract infections, classified as three or more infections per year (file photo)

However, gepotidacin – first created in Stevenage – could quickly break this curse. The new data shows that more than 50 percent of patients who received the drug cured their UTI. In comparison, nitrofurantoin, a commonly used UTI antibiotic, cures the infections in 47 percent of patients.

Crucially, the trial shows that gepotidacin is effective against drug-resistant forms of E.coli, the most common bacteria that causes urinary tract infection.

It was also successful in treating patients with a history of recurrent urinary tract infections, as well as those over 50, who are most at risk for serious urinary tract infections.

Experts believe that geotidacin can help thousands. ‘It’s great news that it has been shown to be such a useful new treatment to fight urinary tract infections,’ says Dr Cat Anderson, general practitioner and specialist in women’s health. “We’ve been waiting a long time for a new antibiotic.”