The latest word on antibiotics

It would seem that my previous posting is now out of date. Immediately after uploading it, an article from TheScientist appeared in my In Box.

This tells me that Andrew Myers of Harvard University and colleagues have been synthesizing new molecules from scratch, based upon the structure of a natural antibiotic, erythromycin, first discovered in a soil sample in 1949. So far, Myers’s team have created more than 300 synthetic molecules.

They are now evaluating these against an array of different bacteria, including two strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) isolated from clinical samples. “Some of these are really scary bugs,” said Myers. He is in little doubt that hundreds more new antibiotics of various degrees of effectiveness will be synthesized in due course.

This has been a paradigm shift in the battle against killer bacteria. Unlike the other big battle of developing vaccines against viruses, this one seems to have the potential to match the speed of bacterial mutations. What must be borne in mind, however, is that bacteria will be always able to dissipate resistance against the new antibiotics as much as against the present ones.

From now onwards, no matter how many new antibiotics can be synthesized they’ll have to be used by doctors according to strict schedules so that resistance by any particular bacterium is not given the chance of building up world-wide resistance.

It will be a numbers game in which natural mutations of bacteria will always give them the ‘first kill’. The new antibiotics will enable man to make a rapid ‘second kill’ and thus confine any new bacterium to a small region in which it can then die out naturally.

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