The new antibiotics target the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (staph) and the antibiotic-resistant strains commonly known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
The discovery shows that the potential new antibiotics are unlike contemporary antibiotics because they contain iridium, a silvery-white transition metal.
New transition metal complexes do not easily breakdown which is important for delivery of antibiotics to where they are needed to fight infections in the body.
Further testing by the researchers shows that these metal compounds are non-toxic to animals and animal cells. Thus, they are likely safe for use in humans.
"So far our findings show that these compounds are safer than other compounds made from transition metals," said Joseph Merola, a professor of chemistry.
Researchers showed the antibiotics effectively kill the bacteria without inhibiting mammalian cells.
A version of the antibiotic was tested for toxicity in mice with no ill effects.
"We are still at the beginning of developing and testing these antibiotics but, so far, our preliminary results show a new group of antibiotics that are effective and safe," added Joseph Falkinham, professor of microbiology.
The team is currently testing the compounds in human cell lines and, so far, the cells have remained normal and healthy.
Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium commonly found on the skin and nose.
The paper was published in the journal Medicinal Chemistry Communications.
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