Viruses to kill E.coli superbugs- End of Antibiotic Resistance?
Scientists have now developed a weapon that can fight against antibiotic resistance. yes! these are the viruses that can kill hard-to-treat E.coli superbugs.
The World Health Organization considers antibiotic resistance i.e, the rise of bacteria that do not respond to the drugs as a top threat to global health.
Any microorganism can mutate & render antibiotics ineffective. Antibiotic resistance is already widespread in the form of E.coli that can cause some urinary tract infections, according to the World Health Organization.
Bacteria eating viruses, or say bacteriophages, are being studied in the hopes that they could be programmed to pick up where antibiotic effectiveness actually falls off.
The antibiotics transformed modern medicine by turning infections that were once almost uniformly fatal to a scenario where all that could be treated in as little as a few days.
But as we learned to outsmart bacteria, bacteria has, in its way, learned to outsmart our medicines too.
And even within a single species of bacteria, there are variations.
And when antibiotics accurately target & kill off the majority of bacteria in an infection, the ones left i.e, the ones that were slightly different from most, multiply & become more prevalent.
Antibiotics are a poor match for these kinds of mutant bacteria, that continue to survive & multiply.
And as more bacteria are exposed to the antibiotics, the effect of the drug is a sort of ‘survival of the fittest’ i.e, increasingly, the bacteria strains left & spreading are the ones that are immune to antibiotics.
So overprescribing antibiotics drugs only drives up the rate of antibiotic resistance.
And some of the infections even become resistant to all antibiotics i.e, a death sentence.
The result of this is that at least 2 million Americans develop antibiotic-resistant infections every year & at least 23,000 of them die.
Researchers have been unable to develop new antibiotics fast enough to keep up with the mutations of the bacteria.
Even if they could, these new antibiotics would just face the same problem all over again.
So scientists are in search of a novel method for treating these kinds of deadly infections.
And one such method is the use of bacteriophages i.e, the viruses whose name, in Greek which means ‘to devour bacteria.’
Each of the particular bacteriophages has a taste for a particular bacterium.
So scientists have been studying them with growing interest to see if these bacteriophages can be programmed to attack the bacteria that antibiotics drugs cannot.
The MIT researchers programmed theirs to go after drug-resistant E. coli.
Scientists created a ‘scaffold,’ of the framework for the bacteriophage that they can effectively plug different genes into the program to attack a specific bacteria.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Timothy Lu, a biological engineer said that they think bacteriophages are a good toolkit for killing & knocking down bacteria levels inside a complex ecosystem, but in a targeted way.
Out of 10,000 different bacteriophages that Dr. Lu and his team created, the team found several of their new viruses i.e, the bacteriophages, could kill even mutated and hard-to-treat antibiotic-resistant E. coli.
Dr. Kevin Yehl who is a postdoc fellow in the MIT lab and study co-lead author said that it is just the beginning, as there are many other viral scaffolds and bacteria to target.
Editor’s note: viruses to kill E.coli superbugs, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers, End of Antibiotic Resistance.