Superbacteria could save medicine

Image credit: NIAID (Flickr)

By Mélissa M Azombo

Experiments on animals showed that a dosage of Bdellovibrio Bacteriovorus acts like an antibiotic, once inside a bacterium engulfing its host from the inside, while increasing in size. Bdellovibrio Bacteriovorus is itself a fast-swimming bacterium, which bursts out from its dead host after the procedure. According to results published in Current Biology There would appear to be no side effects to using it.

This news comes at a time, where the fear of antibiotic resistant bacteria reigning triumphant remains. This new research could prove beneficial in helping to eradicate certain resistant strains. Furthermore, enabling researchers to play catch-up and introduce new antibiotics, as the bacteria halt in their tracks could be a life-changing step for patients.

Bacteria called Shigella affects 160 million people, each year making them ill with the intenstine disease it causes. Experiments showed that this need no longer be the case. The Bdellovibro Bactriovoris caused the amount of Shigella to deplete by a factor of 4000; In fish larvae, this experiment let to a 25% survival rate in Shigella, over 3 days.

It is clear for scientists that there are more safety tests to be done before it can be declared appropriate for therapeutic use. However, it is thought it could be more beneficial as part of treatment against wounds than conditions which invade the whole system. Furthermore, Bdellovibro, which has been shown to kill the serious E. Coli and Salmonella bacteria, seems much more responsive in a fish immune system. It appears that “when Bdellovibrio is there it is releasing broken parts of Shigella and that is giving extra signals to the fish that it should be dealt with,” according to Proffessor Liz Socket of the University of Nottingham.

According to Dr Michael Chew of the Wellcome Trust research body, “this innovative study demonstrates how predatory bacteria could be an important additional tool to drugs in the fight against resistance.”

Medicine could see a future beyond last-line antibiotics.