By Alexandra Sifferlin
June 15, 2017
TIME Health
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Infections that are resistant to the drugs used to treat them, also known as superbugs, are a growing problem worldwide. If nothing is done, 10 million people are estimated to die each year from antibiotic resistance infections by 2050.

Promoting the judicious use of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture is an important way to combat superbugs, but developing new antibiotics to treat infections is also critical. Although few pharmaceutical companies are currently developing new antibiotics, scientists from Rutgers University-New Brunswick report an important finding that could help lead to a new drug down the line.

In the journal Cell, the researchers report they’ve discovered a new antibiotic called pseudouridimycin that appears to work well in animal models. The antibiotic comes from a microbe that was discovered in Italian soil as part of an effort to discover new drug compounds.

MORE: Why Bacteria Are More Threatening Than Ever

Beyond the discovery, the researchers were able to test the antibiotic and show that it acts against drug-resistant bacteria in test tubes and appears to combat infections in mice models. The way the antibiotic targets bacteria is different from similar drugs on the market and makes it less prone to developing resistance, the researchers say. “I think pharma made a mistake in leaving this space,” says study author Richard H. Ebright, Board of Governors professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers-New Brunswick.

Ebright says that he and his research team will likely spend 1-3 more years trying to make it even more effective. “We can make small tweaks to the chemical structure that would make it a bit more potent,” says Ebright.

Much more research needs to be done on the new compound before it’s available. Should the new antibiotic make it to market, it would be one of the first new antibiotic drugs made available in more than a decade.

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