Antibiotic resistance

20 March 20123: New bug stomper … maybe

No, not another instalment in the Starship Troopers media franchise, but an exciting development in the war against the bugs that make us sick … and sometimes kill us.

Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin in 1928 was a turning point in our struggle against bacteria-caused infection. Research carried out by Fleming, and subsequently by Cecil George Paine, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, marked the start of the systematic production and use of antibiotics, at first in developed countries and later worldwide.

Salmonella bacteria.
Image courtesy Creative Commons.

But after eighty years of use, antibacterial resistance is increasingly common. A 2014 report from the World Health Organisation states it is a threat ‘to global public health.’ The report found ‘high rates of resistance … in all WHO regions in common bacteria … ‘[i]

A 2016 review of antimicrobial resistance commissioned by the UK Prime Minister estimated that 700,000 people died each year from resistant infections, and that by 2050 ‘ … 10 million lives a year and a cumulative 100 trillion USD of economic output (could be) at risk … ’[ii]

So it’s kind of surprising that a paper published in February in eBioMedicine with the comparatively catchy title ‘A broad-spectrum synthetic antibiotic that does not evoke bacterial resistance’[iii] might garner some attention in the media. But there’s been hardly any attention at all, if any.

These few lines indicate why the paper may prove to be very important indeed in the future:

‘ … a promising compound, COE2-2hexyl, (exhibits) broad-spectrum antibacterial activity. (It) effectively-treated mice infected with bacteria derived from sepsis patients … including a CRE K. pneumoniae strain resistant to nearly all clinical antibiotics tested. Notably, (it) did not evoke drug resistance in several pathogens tested. (It) has specific effects on multiple membrane-associated functions  … that may act together to abrogate bacterial cell viability and the evolution of drug-resistance.’

So not only did it treat bacteria (from sepsis patients) in mice, including a highly resistant strain, it did not evoke resistance and – importantly – might act against the evolution of drug resistance.

Hell, maybe COE2-2hexyl should feature in the next Starship Troopers movie. Sounds like it could take on any bug.