Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute have figured out a way to re-engineer vancomycin, considered an antibiotic of last resort, to fight the spread of drug-resistant superbugs.
Vancomycin has been used for 60 years, with a few bacterial strains developing a resistance to the drug in recent times. The antibiotic works by breaking apart the structure the bacterial cells, which effectively disrupts and discourages the spread of harmful bacteria in the human body.
Earlier in 2017, researchers at University College London announced they had modified antibiotics to “blow up” deadly superbugs.
There are a few bugs that have started to become resistant to vancomycin, and those bacteria have been deemed by the World Health Organization and the CDC as some of the most dangerous on the planet.
The researchers write in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they made vancomycin 1,000 times more powerful by fiddling with the medication’s molecules, which means doctors can use less of the antibiotic to treat resistant infections. In turn, bacteria would be less able to become resistant to it.
Scientists claim that their modified version of vancomycin is also “smarter” in that it can fight off bacteria in 3 different ways. Should an invading bacterium manage to overcome one of the drug’s defenses, there are still 2 other ways for the antibiotic to kill it.
Dale Boger, of TSRI’s Department of Chemistry, said:
“Organisms can’t just simultaneously work to find a way around 3. Even if they find a solution to 1, the organisms would still be killed by the other 2. This increases the durability of the antibiotic.”
Boger and his colleagues tested the revamped vancomycin on Enterococci bacteria, the drug-resistant version of which the WHO considers to be one of the superbugs that poses the biggest threat to human health. The newfangled medication killed both the original and the drug-resistant forms of the bacteria. It has yet to be tested outside of the lab.
Boger’s thinking behind the experiment was that restricting the use of antibiotics doesn’t solve the burgeoning superbug crisis, but “better science” does.
I guess it depends on your idea of “better science.” Maybe, once we determine that the risks are low, it will be a viable option. On the other hand, though, researchers have demonstrated time and again that natural remedies successfully kill and fight off superbugs, including honey. These weren’t small studies published in obscure medical journals, either.
Garlic, Echinacea, turmeric, and oregano have proven beneficial in the fight against superbugs, along with spicy ginger.
Scientists have made other huge breakthroughs in the fight against antibiotic resistance as well, including the creation of a new antibiotic made from human breast milk, and the discovery that peptides from Tasmanian devil milk kills multidrug-resistant bacteria like vancomycin-resistant enterococcus and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (or MRSA).
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.