Scientists discovered a new class of antibiotics by mucking around in the dirt. I couldn’t be happier.
I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. Recently I was at a doctor’s appointment for my son, and the specialist gave me a small list of possible syndromes he (and I) could have. Even though it turns out we don’t have them, it wasn’t fun to read through the list of symptoms and wonder to myself When is my heart or diaphragm going to crap out?
That is what I would consider an irrational fear. We live in a world where there are many many rational fears. And one of those rational fears is antibiotic-resistant bacteria. As most of you know medicine is in an evolutionary arms race against germs. And while science scored a lot of wins against disease by using antibiotics, drug resistant pathogens looked like they were going to be a game changer. (Humanity being the loser.)
This morning the interwebs are abuzz with hope. I bring you the Los Angeles Times article In soil-dwelling bacteria, scientists find a new weapon to fight drug-resistant superbugs.
In a report published this week in the journal Nature Microbiology, researchers describe a never-before-seen antibiotic agent that vanquished several strains of multidrug-resistant bacteria. In rats, the agent — which the researchers dubbed malacidin — attacked and broke down the cell walls of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and cleared the animals’ MRSA skin infections within a day.
I’ve had a staph infection. It’s nasty business. There were holes in my skin. Very icky. Thankfully, it responded to traditional antibiotics. MSRA doesn’t.
The logical thing to think is Well, that’s all fine and good. However, isn’t the bacteria going to adapt to this new class of antibiotic?*Maybe not.
Even after 20 days of continued contact with malacidin — more than enough time for most bacteria to find a way to thwart an antibiotic’s effects — samples of MRSA bacteria showed no signs of evolving resistance to the newly discovered agent.
You may not be aware how much of a problem antibiotic-resistant bacteria are right now.
…the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that each year, at least 23,000 people now die as a direct result of bacterial infections that have become resistant to existing medicines. And many more die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.
But Jesus Hopping Christ things were looking really bad in the somewhat near future.
Unless new antibacterial agents are discovered and turned into medicines, mortality rates due to untreatable infections are predicted to rise more than tenfold by 2050.
Perhaps malacidin will be able to thwart that dire prediction. If nothing else, the hope of malacidin lowered my health-related anxiety a skosh.
* I’m not putting money on bacteria not being able to evolve resistance to the new antibiotic.