Thursday, 28 July 2016

Not to be Sniffed At?


The rise and rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (like MRSA and VREF) have threatened a return to an age where bacterial infections could not be effectively treated and people died from minor infections.This is largely a consequence of the fact that using antibiotics exerts selection pressure on rapidly dividing bacterial populations, resulting in the resistance being rapidly acquired. This has not been helped by over-prescription of antibiotics (they do not work on viruses) and their employment in farming to encourage growth in animal stocks. Most of the existing antibiotics have copied the chemicals used by some micro-organisms to out-compete their bacterial rivals (penicillin is one used by a fungus). There is now a report that a new antibiotic that is effective against MRSA is produced by a commensal ('friendly') bacterium that lives in the human nose (https://theguardian.com/society/2016/jul/27/scientists-sniff-out-new-antibiotic-inside-the-human-nose-mrsa). It is, of course, likely that many of our regular bacterial residents (including those in our large intestines) will prove to be sources of medically useful compounds. The 'war' between the development of new antibiotics (often not especially attractive to drug companies, if they are little used) and the development of bacterial resistance is likely to be never-ending.

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