How a probiotic drink could combat superugs: Yakult-like fluid “could block DNA molecules that carry antibiotic-resistant genes in bacteria”
- Beverage has yet to be developed, but would focus on molecules called plasmids
- They exist in bacterial cells and help them become antibiotic-resistant
- Bacteria use genes carried by plasmids that give resistance to antibiotics
- Plasmids replicate independently and carry resistance bacteria between them
- Researchers at the University of Birmingham have prevented plasmids from replicating
- This moved the resistance genes and ‘re-sensitized’ bacteria to antibiotics
According to researchers, a probiotic drink could help fight super bacteria by eliminating their resistance to antibiotics.
The drink that is still to be developed would focus on DNA molecules in bacterial cells that help insects ward off drugs.
The particles, known as plasmids, can carry genes that offer resistance to antibiotics that the bacteria can use.
Plasmids replicate by themselves, spread between insects such as salmonella and E. coli and carry resistance genes.
Scientists from the University of Birmingham have made their own plasmid to prevent the particles from making copies of themselves.
A probiotic drink could, according to researchers, help to combat antibiotic-resistant superbugs such as salmonella and E.coli by eliminating their antibiotic resistance
It meant that fewer resistance genes were available for the bacteria. Tests have shown that this process effectively makes them ‘again sensitive’ to antibiotics.
Antibiotic resistance is thought to have arisen after decades of GPs and hospital staff who unnecessarily distributed antibiotics to patients.
As a result, superugs are thought to kill 10 million people each year by 2050 if patients succumb to previously harmless insects.
Probiotic products contain living bacteria that are thought to be good for you by restoring the natural balance in your gut.
WHAT IS ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE?
Antibiotics have been dispensed unnecessarily by GPs and hospital staff for decades, as a result of which innocuous bacteria are once refueled into superugs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned earlier if nothing is done, the world is moving towards a “post-antibiotic” era.
It claimed that common infections, such as chlamydia, will become murderers without immediate solutions to the growing crisis.
Bacteria can become resistant to medication if people take the wrong doses of antibiotics or if they are distributed unnecessarily.
Former senior medical officer Dame Sally Davies claimed in 2016 that the threat of antibiotic resistance is just as serious as terrorism.
Figures estimate that superugs will kill 10 million people every year by 2050, with patients succumbing to once harmless insects.
About 700,000 people die every year as a result of drug-resistant infections, including tuberculosis (TB), HIV and malaria around the world.
There have been repeated concerns that medicines will be returned to the ‘dark ages’ when antibiotics are no longer effective in the coming years.
In addition to the fact that existing drugs are becoming less effective, only one or two new antibiotics have been developed in the last 30 years.
In September, the WHO warned that antibiotics were “running out” because a report identified a “serious lack” of new drugs in the development pipeline.
Without antibiotics, C-sections, treatments for cancer and hip prostheses, they are incredibly ‘risky’, it was said at the time.
The possible new drink, for which the researchers are now seeking funding for a clinical trial, would be comparable to popular probiotics such as Yakult and Actimel.
But Professor Christopher Thomas and his team said it would contain good bacteria with a new type of plasmid called pCURE.
Tests showed that doubling the number of new plasmids in each bacterium could lead to the dispersion of the resistance plasmids.
The pCURE plasmids then spread through laboratory cultures without assistance to eliminate the resistance.
Preventing replication of resistance plasmids also allows bacteria to grow and divide without becoming resistant to antibiotics.
It was not clear on which type of bacteria the researchers tested.
The team then collaborated with scientists from the University of Sydney to test the pCURE plasmids in mice.
They discovered that the new particles worked effectively, but had to be “primed” by giving the mice an initial dose of antibiotic to reduce the number of competing bacteria.
The next step is to see if the pCURE plasmids can spread quickly enough in human volunteers to remove resistance.
Professor Thomas said: ‘We could demonstrate that if you can prevent the plasmid from replicating, most bacteria lose the plasmid as the bacteria grow and divide.
“This means that infections that might otherwise be difficult to control, even with the most powerful antibiotics available, are probably easier to treat with standard antibiotics.”
He added: “This is a promising start. We want to make changes to further improve the efficacy of our pCURE plasmids before proceeding to an initial clinical trial. “
“Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest medical challenges of our time.
‘We have to tackle this on a number of different fronts, among other things by reducing our use of antibiotics and by searching for new, more effective medicines.
“Our approach, which addresses one of the causes of antimicrobial resistance at the genetic level, could be an important new weapon in this fight.”