The unfolding crisis caused by resistance to antibiotics is an indication that diseases that were once easily treatable are now becoming deadly as they used to be.
This is caused by over-subscription of antibiotics for conditions that primarily didn’t require them in the first place. This is now encouraging resistant mutations, which is now leading to the so-called superbugs—multi-drug-resistant infections that can escape the medicines meant to kill them.
“What we’ve done as a human species is to basically coat the world in antibiotics by our overuse and inappropriate use. So, we’ve selected for these resistance mechanisms in the bacteria, so it’s why we’re seeing the problem that we’re seeing now,” said microbiologist Dr. Adam Roberts from University College London.
Efforts are now being put in place as medical researchers put heads together to find effective medicines to treat the emerging, mutating infections, reports Your Health.
In the last few decades, only a few new antibiotics have been developed and brought to the market, but the report said only one source of hope, which is a surprise has emerged recently—beards.
This new discovery came as a result of separate study to test the theory that most beards to contain traces of faeces. This led to swab samples being taken from 20 beards, with at least 100 bacteria detected in the process.
“There was a previous study that showed there was a lot of faecal bacteria present in some of the beards analysed,” Roberts said. “We wanted to either disprove or prove that that was actually correct, and we could find no evidence of that.”
Subsequent tests were then carried out on all of the isolates that were taken from the beards by microbiologists as part of the research into new antibiotics.
“What we do is grid out the individual bacteria on an agar plate which has been pre-inoculated with an indicator strain. And then we see if that indicator strain can grow right up to the individual colonies from the beards or from anywhere else that we’ve got these bacteria from,” explained Roberts.
“And we found, quite surprisingly, that the beard isolates were quite capable of killing the indicator strain that we have; showing that they actually produce antibiotics themselves.”
The result of the test carried out on the isolates showed that out of about a hundred bacteria taken, 20 beards, which represents 25 percent of these showed antibiotic activity against their indicator strain.
At the moment, medical science is in what it known as a “discovery void”, with very few new antibiotics developed since the so-called ‘golden age’ of discovery in the 1950s and 1960s.
A British report estimated that antibiotic and microbial resistance could kill an extra 10 million people a year and cost up to $100 trillion by 2050 if not brought under control.
The UCL team is part of a global effort to find new antibiotics before the crisis snowballs into a desperate situation.
He added that while it might seem contradictory to be looking for even more antibiotics when it was their overuse that partly triggered the current situation; having a raft of new medicines available would enable doctors to limit how long they are used for before they were put aside for many years.