What Drug-Resistant Bacteria Mean for the Future of Medicine

Scientists all over the world agree that antibiotic resistance is one of the largest crises facing medicine today. In the United States alone, over 2,000,000 people are infected annually with bacteria that are somewhat or completely resistant to antibiotics.

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Bacterial mutation is simply a fact of nature. The question is how researchers can keep our medicines, our bodies, and even our food sources from falling behind in their fight against pervasive disease. Here’s what drug-resistant bacteria mean for the future of medicine.

 

Advancements in Phage Therapy

Since the early 1900s, bacteriophages (“phages,” for short) have been used as an alternative to antibiotics. Bacteriophages are bacteria-killing viruses, programmed specifically to seek out and destroy certain bacteria. In this way, the treatment has far fewer side effects within the system and does not promote any form of resistance within the affected bacteria. Recent developments in bacterial sequencing have driven significant advancements in phage therapy, allowing scientists to hyper-target nuisance bacteria through more precise technology. In the U.S., phage therapy is still in the testing phase from a commercial standpoint, but it’s already being used to much success in countries with looser regulations within Europe and the Baltics.

 

Bolstering the Human Microbiome

The human microbiome isn’t yet fully understood, although biotechnology firms specializing in proteomics are advancing the science at a rapid pace. There is some suggestion that replenishing the number of microbiomes in the human body – the compounds that boost our immune systems and help prevent bacterial infection – could up our resistance to detrimental superbugs. Study is underway on several microbiome-based therapies (notably, bacterial consortia) as alternatives to traditional antibiotics.

 

Data Sharing Among Antibiotic Researchers

Somewhat surprisingly, scientific researchers don’t benefit from the proliferation of “big data” the way the public imagines they might. Because of the massive research and capital investment involved, a new antibiotic hasn’t been released by a drug company in more than three decades. In an effort to combat self-contained silos of knowledge, several organizations such as one founded by Pew Charitable Trusts in Philadelphia are working on cloud-based repositories of antibiotic data that can be shared by scientists around the globe. By allowing researchers in different disciplines and with different methodologies to overlap their data, the hope is that a more holistic view of the worldwide antibiotic crisis will lead to viable solutions for the future.


IMCS is invested in the science of proteomics. By developing tools that accelerate the understanding of this complicated field of study, we’re hopeful we can have an ultimate impact on live saving medical advancements.

 

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