Science

Resistance is Futile

By: Joshua Green

As all of you clever clogs out there might already know, antibiotics are medicines used to treat bacterial infections. Some of you probably also know that there is a huge worry surrounding antibiotics as bacteria is becoming much more resistant to effective treatment. According to the World Health Organisation the ‘growing list of infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning and gonorrhoea’ are becoming much harder to effectively medicate against. The UN has also weighed in and stated that the issue is a ‘fundamental threat’. This, alongside the ‘Review On Antimicrobial Resistance’ released in 2014 that grimly concludes that 300 people will perish by the year 2050, surely goes without saying that this poses a real threat. Therefore, it’s not totally ludicrous to state that antibiotic resistance is perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing not only researchers, but the world as a whole. Experts often claim that overconsumption of antibiotics by humans and livestock animals has led to this crisis of resistance. It can be said that scientists are currently in a type of arms race against antibiotic resistance, in which any advantage science can find is making sure humanity are one step ahead of the dangerously adaptive power of bacteria.

Bacteria, unfortunately, have mechanisms to pass on their resistance to antibiotic drugs. One of the mechanisms for these bacteria to ‘pass on’ this resistance, when their numbers increase, is via a gene. This gene is responsible for the production of an enzyme called NDM-1 (which stands for New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase-1). The reader might be tempted to wonder why you should worry about this enzyme. This particular enzyme is responsible for making harmful bacteria resistant to a group of drugs called carbapanems. These type of drugs are considered the last line of defence so it is an understandable concern that this line is under threat.

Microbiology researchers from Oregon State University, lead by Professor Bruce Geller, have identified a molecule that can actually counteract the NDM-1 enzyme. This molecule type is called a PPMO (peptide-conjugated phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomer) and what this molecule does is stop of expression of the gene responsible for the NDM-1 enzyme. The study, published in the Journal of Antimicrobal Chemotherapy, showed that the use of the PPMO molecule restored the effectiveness of an antibiotic called (meropenem). According to the study, the combination of the PPMO molecule and then using meropenem was experimented with on mice with a strain of the E.coli bacteria which has the gene for NDM-1 production. Following on from the promising research it is estimated that human trials will start within three years.

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