Friday, 15 August 2014

What is being done about antibiotic resistance?

Humans face the very real risk of a future without antibiotics. The implications of this are that life expectancy could fall due to people dying from diseases that are readily treatable today. This is the warning issued in a new paper by Tim Sandle.
Over the past year, various reports have been issued which highlight the problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria and the risks to human health. While this is worrying for the public, what are scientists actually trying to do about it?
Writing in an editorial for the journal Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, Digital Journalist Tim Sandle has outlined some of the different types of research that are taking place.
Though many governments are placing restrictions on antibiotic use, this is too little, too late. The current situation has made the quest for new antibiotics and antibiotic alternatives a matter of great importance.
Examples highlighted by Dr. Sandle include:
The use of pulsed light
Scientists have successfully used technology that disinfects food products to destroy antibiotic resistant bacteria around the site of burns. When someone becomes badly burnt, standard burn treatment involves removal of burned tissue, skin grafts, and the application of antiseptic and antimicrobial dressings to prevent and treat infection. Here antibiotic-resistant bacteria present a major risk to the patient, partly due to the increasing failure of many types of antibiotics. Pulsed electrical fields (PEFs) have been used for decades to preserve food by destroying bacteria. It works by destroying the bacterial membrane. To explore the technology’s application of burns, scientists applied a multidrug resistant strain of a bacterium to small third-degree burns that had been made on the backs of anesthetized mice. The results are promising.
Screening the world's resources of valuable molecules
This is a slow process requiring the testing of new molecules as potential antibiotics. One main centre of analysis is the laboratory of Kenneth Keiler (from Penn State University, USA). The research team here has examined 663,000 different molecules against a strain of Escherichia coli bacteria. The researchers have monitored how the chemicals affect the growth and survival of the bacterium. From this, forty-six potential chemicals have been selected. It is a long process, but some encouraging results are emerging.
New bacteria killing chemical
A new antibacterial agent, termed as Peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PPMO) is being examined. The chemical has the ability to silence the expression of specific genes within bacterial cells, thereby stopping them from gorwing.
Working on a new broad spectrum antibiotic
There is a good candidate drug called SQ109. This compound attacks the tuberculosis bacterium. Scientist are currently looking to see how the drug can be modified to target other pathogens from yeast to malaria. By targeting multiple pathways, the scientists are of the opinion that this reduces the probability of pathogens becoming resistant.
Adding silver to existing antibiotics
Taking another approach, some scientists contend that adding silver to existing antibiotics can increase their effectiveness. Here researchers have explained the cellular processes by which the precious metal weakens bacteria and makes them more susceptible to antibiotics.
Although these different research paths are interesting, the menacing threat of emerging and developing antibiotic resistance by a growing number of different types of bacteria presents a serious problem for society.

Posted by Tim Sandle