Earlier this year, Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England addressed the World Health Assembly in Switzerland, saying, “If we don’t take action, in 20 years’ time, we could be back in the 19th century where infections kill us as a result of routine operations.”
Davies was remarking on the frightening prospect that bacteria that are resistant to current antibiotics, such as those that cause MRSA infections in hospitals and nursing homes, could become uncontrollable.
Brendan Wren, an expert in infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said “We are all aware that the post-antibiotic apocalypse is upon us, where we won’t be able to use antibiotics because of resistance, and one could argue that this is more acute than concerns such as climate change.”
This week, Nature, released research that reports a new technique allowing greater success in researching the soil cultures where most of today’s antibiotics originate.
Up until now, research on microbes grown on soil has been difficult to produce in laboratory environments. But the team at Northeastern University, Boston, used a new device called a “diffusion chamber” to grow soil microbe colonies large enough to research in the lab.
They now say they’ve isolated 25 potential new antibiotics, including one superbug-buster.
The new antibiotic, teixobactin, killed a broad range of bacteria, including the drug-resistant superbug, MRSA. Tests on mice showed promising results against bacteria that cause septicemia, skin, and lung infections.
One of the most exciting things about teixobactin is that it breaks down the cell wall of the bacteria – the bug’s most important defense system. The researchers believe that, even if the bugs mutate, the ability to break down the cell walls will never allow it to develop complete resistance.
The researchers reported that, so far, repeated exposure to the drug has not produced any resistant mutations.