September 17, 2016

The Fight Against Superbugs

The breath test that proves which patients really DO need antibiotics - and could help slow the drug resistance crisis

A simple breath test could soon help doctors in the war against superbugs.  Scientists have worked out how to instantly tell whether someone needs antibiotics for a chest complaint. Compounds were found in patients' breath who have respiratory infections; those who exhaled certain compounds also had specific bug in their lungs  The research, which experts hope will eventually be used to build a licensed breath test, could slash the rate of antibiotics prescribed for coughs and colds.  Experts fear that the overuse of antibiotics is driving a superbug epidemic that will kill more people than cancer by 2050.

Scientists just found a compound that kills 98% of a drug-resistant bacteria

Researchers have discovered a compound in an Antarctic sea sponge that's capable of killing 98 percent of the drug-resistant superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus - better known as MRSA - which is rapidly spreading throughout the US.

The discovery of this new compound, which has been named 'darwinolide', is so exciting. Researchers found it inside an Antarctic sponge, Dendrilla membranosa, and initial lab tests have shown that it's able to kill 98.4 percent of MRSA cells.

Could this be the end of SUPERBUGS? Scientists create a protein which 'rips apart' and destroys antibiotic-resistant bacteria

The star-shaped 'peptide polymers' - dubbed SNAPPs - tear down cell walls in their attempts to defeat mutated bugs, experts claim.  They aren't toxic to the body and pose no risk to patients.  Genetically engineered, the molecules kill bacteria in different ways than most antibiotics which are designed to halt growth. Images appear to show bacteria exploding when attacked by the proteins.  Lead researcher Shu Lam said: 'This discovery could potentially be developed as an antibiotic replacement for treating bacterial infections that do not respond to currently available antibiotics anymore.We are still at a preliminary stage and need to perform more detailed assessments on the star peptide polymers."

Your Next Antibiotic Might Be a Virus

When a 43-year-old Chicago woman caught a sinus infection in 2009, she never imagined it could kill her. But five years later, after multiple antibiotics had failed to work, her body began to shut down: She could barely eat, her vision suffered, her head spun, and her joints ached. She had contracted methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), one of about 20 multidrug-resistant superbugs that together infect about two million people in the United States every year, killing 23,000 of them. 

Desperate, the woman turned to the internet, where she discovered a treatment called phage therapy, an alternative to antibiotics that is not currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration but is attracting excitement as our national stockpile of antibiotics grows increasingly less potent. In July of last year, the world's first scientific trial of the therapy began in Europe. In January, the National Institutes of Health dedicated funds to studying it here. And this month, a startup called AmpliPhi Biosciences, in partnership with the U.S. Army, released the results of the first major FDA study of the treatment's safety. 

This is a coup for a medical technique that was popular before the discovery of penicillin and which has for years only been available in countries like Russia, Georgia, and Poland. It's a lot like returning to old warplanes from modern fighter jets and realizing that the original planes had certain advantages all along.

The "phage" in phage therapy is short for bacteriophage, which is a type of virus that infects bacteria rather than people.  "Phages are extremely specific for the bacteria we want to kill," says Robert Ramig, a microbiologist at Baylor College of Medicine. Each virus prefers a single species, so doctors can target bad bacteria and spare beneficial strains. In cases where bacteria develop resistance to the phages, doctors just create a new cocktail. Or they can give patients phages and antibiotics at the same time. "For some reason, when bacteria become resistant to phages, they lose their resistance to antibiotics, which often become effective again," says Ramig. "The bacteria lose either way.
Posted by Jill Fallon at September 17, 2016 8:55 PM | Permalink