General, Research, Technology

Six ingenious alternatives to antibiotics that are losing effectiveness

Overuse of antibiotics leads tothe fact that they become less and less effective when we are more - and scientists are hastily looking for a way to fix everything. Here are some of the best ideas on how to curb one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century.

Sometimes we are surrounded by too many pills.

The world is nearing the point where antibioticsstop treating infections. We seriously abuse the antibiotics we have, and all of this is causing bacteria to develop and develop resistance to drugs designed to kill them.

This phenomenon is called antibiotic resistance, or antibiotic resistance, and is one of the biggest challenges we face in the 21st century.

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The stakes are high. But all is not lost. All kinds of governments, organizations, innovators, and scientists around the world are pondering how to get us out of this mess. Here are just a few of the many methods used to combat antibiotic resistance, handpicked by BBC experts.


  • 1 Use bacteria against themselves
  • 2 Applications of tiny semiconductors
  • 3 Infection-killing polymers
  • 4 Departure from traditional principles
  • 5 From academy to industry
  • 6 Can existing antibiotics be made stronger?

Use bacteria against themselves

Without pills anywhere.

Why not fight with fire with fire if drugs are losing their power?

It will be interesting for you: Bacteria can stop their growth in order to escape antibiotics

Several new biotech companieshope to leverage our growing understanding of the human microbiome: the healthy microbes that live in the human body that support our immune system, prevent the spread of infections, and control metabolism. This will help develop a new class of drugs that fight antibiotic-resistant superbugs and are believed to kill more people by 2050 than cancer.

Vedanta Biosciences, based in Cambridge,Massachusetts, one of the drug development firms on the new wave of thought that many bacteria can cause infection, because a patient develops a lack of his own microbiome due to overuse of antibiotics. Vedanta is researching microbiome research around the world looking for good bacteria to plant in a pill. By swallowing it, the patient could feel better and stimulate the immune response.

"Microbiological treatments such asbacterial consortia are a necessary alternative to antibiotics. It is important to seek new treatments for infection that are both less prone to resistance and do not harm the microbiota and thus make the host less vulnerable to reinfection, ”says Bernat Olle, head of Vedanta.

However, it is important to note that scientists have not yetunderstand the human microbiome completely. But research is gaining momentum, and Vedanta is heading towards clinical trials for at least two of its drugs. If it works, the process of fighting infections will change forever.

Application of tiny semiconductors

Tiny polymers.

This idea was proposed by scientists from the UniversityColorado to Boulder, who worked to develop quantum dots for use in solar energy. What are quantum dots? Small crystals of semiconductors - which are used to build phones and computers. (Small is putting it mildly. As Prashant Nagpal, who is working on the project, says, “a quantum dot compared to the thickness of a human hair is like a city block compared to the Earth”).

Together with colleague Anushri Chattrji, working onBy developing new therapies to replace antibiotics, Nagpal is exploring the use of light-sensitive dots to combat superbugs. The result is a new form of quantum dots that can selectively attack bacteria.

"What does it mean? These quantum dots can be everywhere, and with the right design and the right treatment, they can be activated by light to treat infections in animals or humans without killing the mammalian native cells, ”says Nagpal. When activated, the dots produce enough substance to kill bacterial cells, but leave the host's own cells intact.

When testing points in cell cultures, the points are notaffect healthy human cells. And no more light is required than from a room lamp or the sun. Deeper infection will require a directional LED. In theory, all of this could be so effective that it would only require one millionth of a traditional medicine to achieve the expected result.

Quantum dots are easy and simple to produce, so scaling them up to treat infections on a global scale will make them cheaper than a few rubles per dose, or even less.

“A small amount of medicine and light canheal the worst diseases caused by superbugs that we have experienced in medical conditions in Colorado, ”says Nagpal. “Of course, more research is needed before we can use quantum dots in patients. However, even the first tests show many promising opportunities. "

Infection-killing polymers

Antibiotics may not be the only way to fight superbugs. Scientists from the University of Melbourne have discovered a completely unconventional method of killing deadly bacteria.

It turned out that the star-shaped polymer (chainmolecules), which they created 15 years ago to add viscosity to car paints and motor oils, has some interesting abilities when reassigned for biological use. Upon learning of the polymer's ability to deliver cancer drugs, the scientists realized that a version of the star called Snapp ("structural nanoengineered antimicrobial peptide polymers") had become toxic to bacteria.

Among other methods of killing bacteria, the polymer has been shown to be capable of tearing apart cell walls by absorbing into the cell membrane and pulling out its lipid layer.

Если ученые получат финансирование, они считают, that they will be able to test this method of treatment in humans for five years. “Our star fusion is a technical process and can be easily scaled up. And it's not very expensive. The hardest part will probably be with regulatory approval, ”they say.

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Departure from traditional principles

One of the biggest problems in medicine and science inin general is that scientists do not always work with doctors to address health problems. And so they miss out on important data that can be learned from working directly with patients.

At the Center for Antibiotic Resistance at the UniversityEmory in Georgia, doctors and scientists are working together to better understand how to diagnose and treat resistance. "I am not a doctor. I just need to learn from the doctors what they see on the front lines to make my research as relevant as possible, ”says David Weiss, director of the center.

Among the successes of this partnership is the developmenta new diagnostic test to help doctors find out which bacteria inside a patient are particularly resistant and do not respond to antibiotics. Building on the success of this model, Weiss says, other clinical institutes will begin to open their own centers that will allow scientists and doctors to work together.

From academy to industry

The world is desperate for new antibiotics, butpharmaceutical companies haven't developed new ones in 30 years. Because the development of new drugs is extremely expensive and the final product does not bring much profit.

To solve this snag, Pew CharitableTrusts, a public nonprofit company based in Philadelphia, has developed a generic antibiotic research platform - Spark. It is a cloud-based virtual library of antibiotic research data and analytics that scientists can use to collaborate on new research. “Data sharing like this has proven extremely successful in other areas such as cancer, tropical infections and tuberculosis,” said Katie Tolkington, director of the antibiotic resistance program at Pew Charitable Trusts. “We hope Spark does the same for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. We expect that the platform will be open to the general public and will be consulted by scientists from all over the world. "

There is hope that scientists will workcross-disciplinary, develop new methodologies for the discovery of antibiotics, and the collaboration of academies and industry will end the lull in antibiotic development.

Can existing antibiotics be made stronger?

Can antibiotics be made stronger?

Vancomycin, a known antibiotic, has been usedto treat infections for at least 60 years. It is considered the “last resort” drug, used only when there are no other options, because it has so far managed to avoid problems with antibiotic resistance. Still.

More recently, bacteria have been discoveredresistant to this drug. In response, scientists have begun to attempt to rearrange the antibiotic to make it more powerful and more effective. They do this by changing its structure. Over the years, scientists have managed to create three modifications of the drug. The latter two, created by Dale Bolger and his team at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., Added antibiotics to fight bacteria.

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“Each decision has improved the potential anddrug discernment, ”says Bolger. Resistance to this strain, he says, will develop much, much more slowly. The first modification alone is “reliable and can stay in the clinic for another 50 years. If the bacterium finds a way to get around it, it will be killed by two other mechanisms. ” Work is currently underway to make the new version of the drug less difficult to manufacture.

Whether it's stronger drugs that grindbacteria, polymers, ridiculously small semiconductors, or something completely new - all of this suggests that scientists are working on great ideas, trying to address the biggest threat to human health in the modern era.