Trillions of bacteria may end up vanquishing humans

April 24th, 2008 - 3:50 pm ICT by admin  


Washington, April 24 (IANS) Trillions of bacteria harbouring within every man, women and child seem to be getting the better of their hosts, as the battle for supremacy rages between the two.
A University of Kansas researcher - who penned a history of this epic battle - called for the urgent development of more potent antibiotics necessary for humanity to manage drug-resistant breeds of microbes.

These days, with so-called “super-bugs” like Methacillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) making news, resistance is becoming a major public health problem.

Lester A. Mitscher, a medical chemist pointed out: “Antibiotics are essentially selective poisons that kill bacteria and that do not kill us.” He chronicled the advent of antibiotics in the 20th century.

Sulfonamides, the first anti-infectives, were introduced in the mid-1930s. Penicillin - “the first true antibiotic” - was employed widely during World War II. In the decades since, dozens of important antibiotics have been developed and marketed around the world.

“These were called ‘miracle drugs’. Unfortunately, that had a downside. They were so relatively safe and so effective that we became careless in their use and in our personal habits. That has caused much of the resistance phenomenon we have today,” he said.

“Bacteria that survive the initial onslaught of antibiotics are then increasingly resistant to them,” said Mitscher.

“The sensitive proportion of the bacterial population dies, but then the survivors multiply quickly - and they are less sensitive to antibiotics.”

Mitscher exhorted drug corporations to develop antibiotics with the potential not only to kill microbes but also to inhibit their ability to mutate. These new drugs would be made more effective still if they enlisted the body’s own immune system to battle infections.

Mitscher adapted his article from a July 2007 speech in Portland, Maine, accepting the American Society of Pharmacognosy’s Norman R. Farnsworth Research Achievement Award.

These findings appeared in the March 28 issue of American Chemical Society’s Journal of Natural Products.

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