News / Health

    Scientists Find New Strategy Against Drug-Resistant Superbugs

    Petri dishes with bacterial strains of EHEC bacteria (bacterium Escherichia coli.) , June 2, 2011
    Petri dishes with bacterial strains of EHEC bacteria (bacterium Escherichia coli.) , June 2, 2011
    Jessica Berman
    Scientists may have found an effective new weapon against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  They did not create a new drug to kill these microbes; instead, they found a way to interfere with the metabolism of the extra-hardy bacterium - E. coli in this case - so that the germs became more vulnerable to existing antibiotics.  

    Scientists believe they have discovered the so-called superbugs’ Achilles heel, a biochemical weakness in the bacteria that makes it possible - in effect - to "kick them while they are down.”

    Researchers, led by Jim Collins of Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biotechnology in Massachusetts, altered the E. coli's bacterium’s metabolic processes, interfering with its normal production of waste products called ROS, short for "reactive oxygen species."

    Normally, the E. coli bacterium would be able to break down the ROS they produce.  But Collins, also a professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University, says that by tweaking a number of genes to increase ROS production, scientists forced waste levels within the cell to become destructive, weakening the superbugs and making them vulnerable to antibiotics.

    Researchers used a computer model to map out the metabolic activity of the E. coli bacterium, selectively deleting genes to see which ones might be involved in increasing the production of ROS, and then zeroing in on the most likely ROS genes.
     
    After switching off these ROS genes and successfully increasing the bacterium's waste production, Collins says scientists conducted experiments with a drug-resistant strain of E. coli, targeting certain areas in the bacterium with standard antibiotics and bleach.

    “And in each case, we found the targets could boost the killing efficacy from tenfold to a thousand fold," said Collins.

    Collins says his team's approach actually mimics how some antibiotics are believed to kill bacteria.  He cautions that the new strategy is not a “magic bullet” that can solve the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria -- a problem that is undermining traditional treatment strategies against lethal diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.  But Collins believes the discovery could strengthen our existing arsenal of drugs.

    “Where this can help address the problem of growing antibiotic resistance is that we’re, with this approach, serving to boost the effectiveness of our existing antibiotics.  And we have preliminary data that indicate that this approach can serve to resensitize resistant strains to antibiotics to which they’ve grown resistant," he said.

    In other words, there could soon be a pill that would cause drug-resistant bacteria to lose their resistance and allow potentially life-threatening infections to respond to standard antibiotic treatment.

    An article describing a new method for fighting antibiotic-resistant microbes is published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora