Superbugs, or bacteria strains that are resistant to antibiotic drugs, are a growing concern within the medical community, reportedly killing 700,000 people a year. But a new discovery by researchers from Northwestern University may help calm fears of a future riddled with incurable illness. In a report published Wednesday in Nature, the researchers detail the discovery of a new natural compound that could act as a strong antibiotic.
As Denise Grady, science and health editor, writes in her New York Times piece,
The new research is based on the premise that everything on earth — plants, soil, people, animals — is teeming with microbes that compete fiercely to survive… Trying to keep one another in check, the microbes secrete biological weapons: antibiotics.”
The discovery began as an attempt by researchers to grow bacteria that had never been grown in a lab environment before. The bacteria was successfully grown in a diffusion chamber and then transferred to the lab via Petri dishes. Then, in collaboration with NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals, Kim Lewis looked for new potential antibiotics, finding over 12 potentials among which one stands out as highly promising.
This promising antibiotic, called teixobactin, has been tested successfully on mice- killing bacteria and causing no harm to the animal. So far, the compound has successfully killed the bacteria that causes staph infections, strep and tuberculosis. However, Dr. William Schaffner, infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University says in the same New York Times piece,
It’s at the test-tube and the mouse level, and mice are not men or women… Moving beyond that is a large step, and many compounds have failed.”
Human trials are reportedly still two years away, and the completion of those trials is likely to take three years. Despite this, the initial possibility of a new antibiotic in the face of rising superbugs brings excitement and optimism to the medical community.
Read more here- “Scientists Hit Big Antibiotic Pay Dirt Growing Finicky Bacteria in Lab,” (Richard Harris, NPR)
Olivia is a graduate of Villanova University where she studied Economics and History, minoring in Gender and Women's Studies. She also has experience working with federal legislatures on health care policy, women's issues, and Internet safety.