Research adds a weapon in our war between germs and drugs

Photo by Iqbal Osman via Flickr, Creative Commons
Photo by Iqbal Osman via Flickr, Creative Commons

A research breakthrough in a report in Nature  this week, A new antibiotic kills pathogens without detectable resistance,  may turn out to be the biggest and most hopeful medical news of the year. 

It’s been decades since scientists made significant progress on new weapons against deadly microbes. Antibiotics have been, numerous studies show, over-used and abused to the point even the most powerful are no longer effective. As Nature noted, “Antibiotic resistance is spreading faster than the introduction of new compounds into clinical practice, causing a public health crisis.”

The cost of antibiotic resistance is devastating. A major new British review warns, “a continued rise in resistance by 2050 would lead to 10 million people dying every year and a reduction of 2 per cent to 3.5 per cent in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It would cost the world up to 100 trillion USD.”

This week’s report of a  breakthrough by European and American scientists, of a potential new class of antibiotics they say is likely to avoid developing resistance, has enormous implications.

Read the new research report here in Nature, (subscription required), or find a smart layperson’s explanation here in MIT Technology ReviewFrom a Pile of Dirt, Researchers Discover New Antibiotic, by Karen Weintraub. There’s a good backgrounder on the topic at the Antimicrobial Resistance page of the World Health Organization.

Also on the topic of antibiotics, from F&O’s archives, find Clio Korn’s report,  Gut bacteria linked to depression and brain health; Chris Wood’s Natural Security column (subscription required), We’re all in this together, and — if you want to reach that far back — my   own magazine piece on antibiotic resistance from 1995,  Germ Warfare.


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