Researchers have developed an efficient, cheap liquid solution that fights antibiotic-resistant bacteria on hospital surfaces and keeps patients safe from life-threatening infections.
The solution is based on specially designed bacteriophages - viruses that infect bacteria - that can alter the genetic make-up of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
We have genetically engineered the bacteriophages so that once they infect the bacteria, they transfer a dominant gene that confers renewed sensitivity to certain antibiotics, said Udi Qimron of Tel Aviv University.
Certain antibiotics are designed to target and bind to a part of the bacteria cell called a ribosome - the protein factory of the cell. However, after continual and frequent exposure to antibiotics, the bacteria learns to change components in the ribosome itself so that the antibiotics are unable to bind.
Our novel approach relies on an effective delivery process and selection procedure, put on the same platform for the first time, says Qimron.
With this system, the sensitive bacteria take over the ecological niche once occupied by the resistant bacteria and if a patient does happen to become infected by lingering bacteria traditional antibiotics can again be used as an effective treatment.
In addition to cleansers, Tellurite represents the second step in a two-part process. A Tellurite compound, which is toxic to bacteria, could also be spread on all surfaces to wipe out the bacteria that had not been rendered sensitive and thus the entire population of the surface bacteria would be sensitized. The combination is designed to first disarm and then kill dangerous bacteria.
The solution will be tested in pre-clinical animal trials to ensure its safety before being made available for wider use at hospitals. Once its safety is guaranteed, the solution will come in a bottle and can be easily added to a bucket or spray.
Superbugs refer to a strain of bacteria that are resistant to one or more antibiotic(s) that would normally treat the bacteria. They are dangerous due to the limited number of treatment options available. Even the most basic hospital treatments will be threatened and become highly dangerous without effective antibiotics, they have warned. According to the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (BSAC) little has been done to address the issue and the over-use of existing medicines has been fuelled by complacency among governments and the public who fail to acknowledge the impending crisis.
Recently, Europe was found to be in the grip of a bacterium called Klebsiella pneumoniae, whose rates of resistance had more than doubled to 15 percent by 2010 from around 7 percent five years ago. According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are one of the top three threats to human health. Patients in hospitals are especially at risk, with almost 100,000 deaths due to infection every year in the U.S. alone.