Bye-Bye Antibiotics?

I get about four sinus infections a year, and I depend on antibiotics to get better. But my infections have started to show some resistance to amoxicillin and the z-pack, which don’t work as well anymore. That’s why I was concerned by a recent news story.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that science’s strongest known antibiotic – colistin – has been ineffective against bacteria containing a gene named mcr-1. Even more terrifying: this gene resides on a plasmid, a small loop of DNA that can break off and move from one bacterium to another. In other words, this gene can spread to other bacteria – or even other disease-causing organisms!

Since the discovery of the gene was first reported in China in November 2015, mcr-1 has spread to human, animal, food and environmental bacteria on every continent. Such antimicrobial resistance (resistance to antibiotics) has far-reaching consequences in medicine. Surgeries, transplants and chemotherapy all provide easy opportunities for bacteria to invade already vulnerable patients who are no longer assured of protection.

An entirely new class of antibiotics needs to be created to combat antimicrobial resistance. Thankfully, scientists have developed a lab technique to grow the microorganisms needed to discover these new antibiotics. The iChip (isolation chip) uses fine membranes to isolate individual microbes while still allowing them to receive chemical nutrients.

Agilent is a critical player in this research. Agilent liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry and MassHunter software have been used to test teixobactin, the most promising compound discovered so far. These Agilent solutions have enabled researchers to understand how teixobactin attacks the cell walls of bacteria, blocking their ability to reproduce or mutate. Beyond the test environment, teixobactin has already proven effective against “superbugs” such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) and tuberculosis.

It will be several years before teixobactin is available for human use. But the fact that a new class of antibiotics has already emerged from iChip use – and Agilent testing – creates hope in the battle against antimicrobial resistance. My sinuses will be very grateful!

Today’s post was written by Agilent Communications’ summer intern!

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