Sunday 26 January 2014

New armour against a post-antibiotic era

The recent warning issued by the World Health Organisation that gonorrhoea is becoming resistant to the last drugs in our armoury heightens awareness of the need for new antibiotics, as do the many reports of new hospital ‘superbugs’. There is some excellent primary research on antibiotic discovery – including exciting developments in metagenomics on the Norwich Research Park – but the issue is how to translate this research into marketable treatments.

In relation to this important area of research, David Livermore (Professor of Medical Microbiology at Norwich Medical School) has written an interesting overview for Laboratory News.

Here is an extract:

“One concern for the future is the re-emergence of classical diseases that we had thought banished to history, for example tuberculosis. The other worry is that without effective antibiotics, we won’t any longer be able to conduct the many types of modern medicine that lead to immunosuppression. These include therapies for autoimmune disorders and cancer treatments. Many routine surgeries may also become too dangerous to perform owing to the risk of untreatable infection. The concept of a ‘post-antibiotic era’, where common infections can no longer be successfully treated, has been around since the early ‘90s. At that time, resistance amongst Gram-positive bacteria was rising rapidly. Penicillin-resistant pneumococci were widespread internationally1 and vancomycin-resistant enterococci were also circulating in hospital specialist units2, most extensively in the US. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) were relatively uncommon in serious infections at the start of the 1990s, but proliferated to the point, from 2000-3, where they accounted for 40% of all Staphylococcus aureus infections and 10% of all UK bloodstream infections. Similar rises were seen in most of Europe (except the Netherlands and Scandinavia), and in the USA.”

To read more, see Laboratory News.

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Posted by Tim Sandle

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