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Thursday, 5 December 2013

Bacteria-Killing Protein Could Help Fight Antibiotic-Resistant 'Superbugs' -

Bacteria-Killing Protein Could Help Fight Antibiotic-Resistant 'Superbugs' -

Imagining a world where previously conquered illnesses — most profoundly the bubonic plague — reemerged as a major health issue could be horrifying for some, and unfortunately, it could one day become a reality, as bacteria develop stronger resistance to antibiotics. Thankfully, there’s hope in sight: In a recently published study, researchers describe the discovery of a protein that could kill these so-called superbugs and usher in a new era of antibiotic treatments.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report in September, bringing attention to three particularly antibiotic-resistant bacteria: Clostridium difficile, Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, and Neisseria gonorrheae. In the report, the CDC emphasized the importance of reducing antibiotic misuse or overuse — either one allows allows bacteria to become increasingly resistant, and these three strains are already resistant to most, if not all, antibiotics. Other bacteria that were labeled as a threat, albeit not as urgent, included various strains of Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumonia, and tuberculosis.

The October breakout of Salmonella Heidelberg offers a perfect example of a real-world scenario, highlighting the urgency of developing new antibiotics, and reducing the chances of current antibiotics becoming obsolete. Seven strains of the bacteria, which was traced back to three Foster Farms processing plants in California, sickened 389 people, and caused 40 percent of them to be hospitalized — 20 percent more than a typical Salmonella outbreak, Barbara Reynolds, a CDC spokeswoman, told USA Today. The reason for so many hospitalizations: antibiotic resistance.  

Bacteriophages Fight Off Bacterial Infection 
“To stay ahead of bacterial resistance, we have to keep developing new antibiotics,” Dr. Udi Qimron, of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology, said in a statement. “What we found is a small protein that could serve as a powerful antibiotic in the future.”

The researchers knew that bacteriophages (phages) — viruses that infect and replicate in bacteria — are harmless to humans, and looked to employ them in a way that would fight off bacterial infection. “Ever since the discovery of bacteriophages in the early 20th century, scientists have understood that, on the principle of the ‘enemy of my enemy is my friend,’ medical use could be made of phages to fight viruses,” Dr. Qimron said in the statement.  


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