Bacteria have gained an edge in the battle for dominance. Over the past few years "superbugs" and antibiotic resistance have become a growing public health threat. Scientists worry that one day a particularly virulent superbug may be as grim to today’s society as the Black Death was nearly 800 years ago.
But researchers think that special proteins may help in the battle against antibiotic resistance. Dr. Udi Qimron and his team of researchers at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Clinical Immunology at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine have discovered a protein that may kill viruses. Researchers are hoping to isolate the protein and use it as a substitute for conventional antibiotics.
"To stay ahead of bacterial resistance, we have to keep developing new antibiotics," said Dr. Qimron on Science Daily. "What we found is a small protein that could serve as a powerful antibiotic in the future."
The research has shown that certain proteins seem to block the division of e. coli. But the question remains how to deliver this protein in the form of a drug. While research has a long way to go in delivering an effective tool against drug resistance, these proteins seem to hold real promise.
Superbugs, a Public Health Threat
Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem prompting many health officials to contend that we’ve entered a post antibiotic world. Prior to the invention of antibiotics, simple medical procedures could become deadly because of the risk of infection. Cesarian sections, insect bites, blood transfusions, and skin infections could become medical catastrophes. Today, drug resistant bacteria kill 23,000 people in the U.S. each year and cost our healthcare system $20 billion.
Drug resistance happens naturally when microorganisms are exposed to antibiotics and resistant traits can be exchanged between bacteria. While the phenomenon is natural, its been thrown into full gear through the misuse and overuse of antibiotics. In all, 80 percent of antibiotics are still used in livestock in the U.S., a practice that’s become a breeding ground for drug resistance.
Most recently, the FDA implemented a voluntary guidance to phase out certain “medically important” drugs for use in livestock. “We need to be selective about the drugs we use in animals and when we use them,” says William Flynn, DVM, MS, deputy director for science policy at FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM). “Antimicrobial resistance may not be completely preventable, but we need to do what we can to slow it down.”
The question now becomes: will these special proteins be enough to quell a Black Death superbug incident? Either way, this post antibiotic world is scary stuff.
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