Solving antibiotic resistance crisis

Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to human health in the modern world.

Thursday, 14th December 2017, 9:51 am
Updated Thursday, 14th December 2017, 9:55 am
Antibiotic resistance

It’s estimated that 5,000 people die every year in England, as antibiotics become less capable at treating infections.

However, researchers at the University of Sheffield have had a scientific breakthrough in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

A new combination of antimicrobial chemicals has been discovered, potentially restoring the power of antibiotic medicines.

When antibiotics were first discovered by Alexander Fleming, way back in 1928, they were incredibly effective at killing bacteria, completely revolutionising medical science. Unfortunately, through years of overuse, bacteria are becoming resistant.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when an antibiotic, such as one you would receive from your doctor when you’re ill, becomes ineffective.

The drug can no longer control or kill the harmful bacteria, and so the the bacteria are known as ‘resistant.’

Bacteria can be resistant to several different antibiotics, meaning the diseases they cause are becoming harder and harder to treat. Globally, 700,000 people die annually due to multi-drug resistant infections – a figure predicted to rise to 10 million a year by 2050.

Our last hope in the war against antibiotic resistance was with the discovery of a drug called colistin.

It was previously believed that colistin was one of the final remaining antibiotics which remained fully effective.

For a few diseases, colistin was the last resort, and the only drug not vulnerable to resistance.

Yet, in 2015 bacteria resistant to colistin were discovered.

Resistance against colistin was an unavoidable sign that alternatives to antibiotics were urgently needed.

Professor Robert Poole and Dr Nanrata Rana at the University of Sheffield have worked with scientists from across Europe to discover a novel technique in the fight against antibiotic resistance. Their study revealed that colistin was more effective against a resistant strain of the bacteria E.coli when combined with a molecule called triacarbonyl manganese.

This molecule helps enhance the body’s immune response, and consequently, it can fight the the bacteria more effectively.

A follow up experiment by scientists at the University of Surrey showed that insects infected with E.coli had a much greater chance of survival when they were treated with colistin and triacarbonyl manganese, compared to insects which were treated with only colistin.

Antibiotics which had previously been rendered ineffective could be revitalised when combined with triacarbonyl manganese, revolutionising treatments.

With antibiotic resistance becoming one of the biggest threats to global health today, it’s incredible to think that Sheffield could be at the forefront of finding a solution to the crisis.

See page 60, Your Health.