Warning: You Could Be Susceptible to This Infection

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Microbes’ ability to out-maneuver the immune system has resulted in a number of pandemics over the course of human history.Infectious bacteria are truly amazing. These microorganisms are able to replicate and evolve at an astounding speed. This ability to mutate frequently means that infectious bacteria are hard to stop. Try to zap them into nothingness with one type of antibiotic and they will reappear in a different form, completely resistant to the antibiotic you just spent years developing in the laboratory.

This ability of microbes (pathogenic bacteria) to out-maneuver the immune system has resulted in a number of pandemics over the course of human history. There are no survivors left now to tell about the 1918 influenza pandemic, but records show that nearly 40 million people died worldwide. SARS is the most recent pathogenic bacteria to threaten our collective health, but scientists have been able to stop the flu from spreading and causing widespread mortality.

Not all bacteria cause pandemics, of course. Most cause localized infections in individual bodies. When you have an infection, the normal course of treatment is to prescribe an antibiotic. This usually does the trick and helps you get on the road to recovery. However, with increasing frequency, many people are finding that their infections aren’t being cured by standard antibiotic medication. The infection spreads and becomes even more of a threat.

Scientists are working hard to combat all this antibiotic resistance, however. The pursuit of developing new antibiotics has been largely abandoned by big pharmaceutical companies who are busy manufacturing drugs in other more lucrative markets, such as cancer therapy and diabetes medication. To fill this void, researchers are now looking at trying to develop a combination of drugs that can beat antibiotic resistance. One such example is to pair beta-lactams with beta-lactamase.

Beta-lactam antibiotics are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs and are distinguished by their chemical structure; principally, the beta-lactam ring. One familiar beta-lactam is penicillin. Pathogenic bacteria use beta-lactamase to defend themselves against beta-lactam antibiotics. Beta-lactamase hydrolyzes the beta-lactam ring, causing the antimicrobial activity associated with beta-lactams to be destroyed. So when beta-lactamase is inhibited, beta-lactam antibiotics are free to do their job of killing off pathogenic bacteria.

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Besides pairing antibiotic drugs, scientists think turning to natural products may be the way to go. Flavonoids and essential oils both exert anti-bacterial forces in the body. These natural substances could be used in antibiotic-resistant individuals to help fight stubborn infections.

And one final way scientists are hoping to keep up with antibiotic resistance is to employ the help of nanoparticles. Part of the problem with antibiotic resistance is that it forces doctors to prescribe high doses of drugs which can become toxic for a patient. Antimicrobial nanoparticles (or NPs) have proven in animal studies and in vivo that they can effectively treat antibiotic-resistant infections. NPs have the ability to deliver antibiotics in a concentrated dose to a very specific target. They can also make the antibiotic more stable and better able to do its job of fighting off infectious bacteria.

Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Rezanka, T., et al., “Do we need new antibiotics? The search for new targets and new compounds,” J Ind Microbiol Biotechnol. December 2010; 37(12):1241-8.
Dobie, M., et al., “Synergism between natural products and antibiotics against infectious diseases,” Phytomedicine. August 2008; 15(8): 639-52.
Huh, A.J., et al., “Nanoantibiotics: a new paradigm for treating infectious diseases using nanomaterials in the antibiotics resistant era,” J Control Release. December 10, 2011; 156(2): 128-45.
Broadwith, P., “Antibiotic Nanoparticles Go for Gold,” The Royal Society of Chemistry,” RSC web site, August 25, 2010; http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2010/August/25081001.asp, last accessed May 8, 2013