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Potential Cure For Antibiotic Resistant Infections

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the early-days-but-promising dept.

Biotech 127

kpw10 writes to let us know about research to be published this week that offers hope in the battle against multi-drug-resistant bacteria. "Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have discovered that two drugs used to treat bone loss in old folks can both kill and short-circuit the 'sex life' of antibiotic-resistant bacteria blamed for nearly 100,000 hospital deaths across the country each year."

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Okay, I'll bite ... (4, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818871)

what happens when the bugs become resistant to these two drugs as well?

Re:Okay, I'll bite ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818901)

you use an itty-bitty hammer.

Re:Okay, I'll bite ... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19819763)

i play xbox with my brother sometimes... its very cool... my brother is 30 years old hes pretty smart... he has 45 iq its the same as heis shoe size.. pretu good considaring 100 is full.... nentendo is cool but wii is beter... i am masetr chief from halo... bcz when i played halo for the second time i knew what was going too happen befor eit happend... so im takeru... its pretty cooll... sonic is cool... i dont like tails though bcz hes sonics girlfrend... i want2 be sonics girlfrend.... sonic is so fast and handsome its increddibnle... sometimes... together... my mom and dad are brother and sister... its prety cool i gess... i herd its prety normal in america.... they love eachother like a father and daugher... theyr so cute together... together... sometimes... xbox... my brother is in wheel chair... but hes cool because hes smart... yea... the boy in the basements said he isnt smart and he say bad thing about my dad... but its no mater... he is chained up... in basement... together... xbox... yea... maybe.

Re:Okay, I'll bite ... (1)

VorpalEdge (967279) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818945)

Then we find new drugs.

At the very least, I would not be surprised if the constantly mutating virus is actually opening itself up to new attack vectors that we just haven't found yet.

Bacteria != viruses (4, Informative)

mattcasters (67972) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819531)

Just a nitpick, but anti-biotics don't really help fight against viruses.

Re:Bacteria != viruses (1, Informative)

Telcontar (819) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820685)

They help indirectly: In cases of a viral infection, antibiotics are prescribed to wipe out bacteria that keep the immune system tied up and busy. While those bacteria were not strong enough to make you sick, antibiotics are a defense on that front, allowing your immune system to focus on viruses.

Of course, antibiotics also kill useful bacteria (e.g. those that help you to digest milk and salad), so antibiotics are not really a good idea against a common cold.

Re:Bacteria != viruses (4, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820971)

In cases of a viral infection, antibiotics are prescribed to wipe out bacteria that keep the immune system tied up and busy.

Huh? That's not even wrong. There is no reason to use antibiotics in a viral infection. Period. Now, there are a couple of real life caveats to this: Firstly, viral infections can alter host defenses (usually by trashing the lining of the respiratory system - essentially making holes in it - which allow bacteria to invade. The classic case is Haemophilus Influenza pneumonia that occurs after an influenza infection. Secondly and more commonly, a doctor may not know if the infection is viral or bacterial and antibiotics are often (likely too often) added empirically.

But bacteria "don't keep the immune system busy".

Re:Okay, I'll bite ... (1, Funny)

tloh (451585) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818967)

prepare for the headline - "Netcraft confirms it: The human race is dying."

Re:Okay, I'll bite ... (1)

tloh (451585) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819027)

On a more serious note, what are the chances that bacteria will evolve a new way to have sex to circumvent this? And what would you call these new kinky perverts? Okay, so maybe the notion of bacterial sexual freedom isn't so serious.

Re:Okay, I'll bite ... (1)

Yez70 (924200) | more than 7 years ago | (#19821047)

Hurry!
We must ban gay bacterial marriages right away!

You missed the obvious (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818975)

The problem that is said to cause drug resistant bacteria is over use - too many people taking the drug when they don't really need it to kill bacteria. And in this case the "cure" we're being offered is a drug that's in even wider use, now it will not only be used to treat the resistant drugs but will continue to be used widely to treat bone loss in old people (senile citizens). So it's not just a matter of what happens when the bugs become resistant, but that the resistance is on a fast track!

Re:You missed the obvious (1)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819043)

From what I see, the drug stops the bacteria from reproducing, meaning that the quick lifespan of the bacteria won't help it adapt, since it won't be able to pass on resistant traits.

Re:You missed the obvious (3, Insightful)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819079)

... except for that fraction of a percent that's immune to the drug and can breed anyway, and then we start all over again.

Re:You missed the obvious (1)

Knara (9377) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819605)

I dunno, wouldn't pretty much every one of the bacteria have to reproduce the exact same way?

Re:You missed the obvious (2, Insightful)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820237)

More-or-less. There are certainly variations, but there might be critical points in the process that are the same across all bacteria. If a drug targets those, we win. Evolution could help bacteria survive, but there wouldn't be any evolutionary pressure to change this aspect of bacterial reproduction outside exposure to the antibiotic.

An analogy might be something like VX nerve gas and human evolution. We might some day evolve so that VX nerve gas won't affect our nervous systems, but it won't be through exposure to VX, since we basically die instantly if we're exposed. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that we would evolve that way.

Re:You missed the obvious (1)

Winckle (870180) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820239)

Bacteria can reproduce both sexually and asexualy, also they exchange plasmids of DNA.

Life will find a way to survive.

Not really that simple (4, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819585)

Now I'm not a doctor, but it seems to me that (as is usually the case) it's not that simple. Among the things that come to mind:

1. Drug resistant bacteria aren't as much caused by taking too many antibiotics, but by taking too little of an antibiotic. People take the antibiotic for 2-3 days, then they feel better, and figure out "why bother taking the rest?" Or they take an antibiotic, it makes them feel worse, skip the rest of the treatment because they know better than the doctor. Etc.

Problem is, they have a shitload of bacteria left at that point.

Will someone decide to skip their bone loss drugs too? Probably, but I'd assume somewhat fewer.

2. The fact that it's already widely used to treat bone loss, should probably tell us that if it was that easy to develop resistance to it, it would have happened already. Not saying it's impossible to, but it might just take a lot more time.

3. The relatively fast development of resistance is massively aided by the fact that bacteria can exchange genes. (Hence the jab about inhibiting their sex life.) So basically once one develops resistance, it can pass that around.

Something that attacks that very mechanism, might slow down the rate of developing and spreading resistance a lot.

Re:Not really that simple (2, Insightful)

a-zarkon! (1030790) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820309)

To add on to point 1 above: Any evidence or anecdotes regarding people who can't afford a full course of antibiotics or who complete a course of antibiotic xxx but find themselves still sick and can't pay for a second round with antibiotic yyy? Looking at the prices of prescriptions (even the copay on some of this stuff with insurance) I can easily see where there could be tough decisions for low/fixed income types.

Re:Not really that simple (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 7 years ago | (#19821037)

1. Drug resistant bacteria aren't as much caused by taking too many antibiotics, but by taking too little of an antibiotic. People take the antibiotic for 2-3 days, then they feel better, and figure out "why bother taking the rest?" Or they take an antibiotic, it makes them feel worse, skip the rest of the treatment because they know better than the doctor. Etc.

That's part of the problem, the bigger problem is that there are too many antibiotics being used for essentially superfluous indications such as when used in cattle feed and for clearly viral infections. In fact, the data on exactly how long one should be on antibiotics for a given infection is pretty sparse. Remember that the host immune system is playing an active role in clearing the infection - it's not just the antibiotic, and once you gain the upper hand, it's bye-bye bug.

1. Drug resistant bacteria aren't as much caused by taking too many antibiotics, but by taking too little of an antibiotic. People take the antibiotic for 2-3 days, then they feel better, and figure out "why bother taking the rest?" Or they take an antibiotic, it makes them feel worse, skip the rest of the treatment because they know better than the doctor. Etc.

Now this is interesting because you're correct - At least one of the drugs has been marketed for several years. If they prevented antibiotic resistance, it should be possible to see this given enough patients and time. The problem is that we don't have any way to really track this on a grand scale. It may be possible for organizations like Kaiser Permanente, who can track drug use and outcome data, to see this. It may also be the case that this is yet another Test Tube Marvel that has little applicability to the real world.

3. The relatively fast development of resistance is massively aided by the fact that bacteria can exchange genes. (Hence the jab about inhibiting their sex life.) So basically once one develops resistance, it can pass that around.

As far as I can tell from the terribly written summary, that's what the drugs do - prevent plasmid reproduction. The problem here is that there are several mechanisms for plasmid / gene transfer among the various species of bacteria. There may be mechanisms that are not susceptible to these drugs.

Why does a shortened drug regime help bacteria? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19822215)

Posting anonymously because I already moderated (damn damn damn!)

OK, here's something I've never understood: why does shortening an antibiotic regime help bacteria become resistant?

The way I see it, the longer bacteria are exposed to something, the more likely they are to not be adversely affected by it. If there's only one bacterium among a billion that just happens to be immune to an antibiotic, completely killing off all others is going to result in that bacterium having free reign over food resources, and will replicate at will (let's say two bacteria if they reproduce sexually). But if there's still 500 million other bacteria around after the antibiotic has stopped, the resistant bacterium will still have to compete for food with all other bacteria. So it should be harder for the population to develop resistance.

Where did I go wrong? I'd really like to know.

Re:Why does a shortened drug regime help bacteria? (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#19822299)

Well, AFAIK because

1. It gives it more time to exchange genes with the other 500 million bacteria.

2. Because the immune system also has a lot more other targets and might miss it long enough to get coughed/sneezed/whatever out.

Re:Not really that simple (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#19823291)

Once the immune system gets the upper hand, yes. But sometimes the immune system never gets the upper hand in those aborted treatments, or not completely. For example, Staphylococcus Aureus often just gets more or less isolated in a pus bag, and the immune system can't finish it off, or it takes a long time to finish it off. What could look like an abcess finally healing, could well be just reducing its size and having a recurring infection later.

Re:Okay, I'll bite ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19819109)

Valinomycin is currently the last hope of antibiotics, and many bugs have begun to evolve resistance to that antibiotic (I think the resistance is through a coat protein mutation). They will evolve resistance to this one, too. But perhaps there will have been other antibiotics discovered by then. It's an ongoing fight to develop new drugs and discover new drug targets.

No problem... (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819257)

just put them in an autoclave.

Re:No problem... (2, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819363)

just put them in an autoclave.

The microbes, or the patients?

Re:No problem... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19819525)

The microbes, or the patients?

Yes.

Re:No problem... (1)

Knara (9377) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819563)

Yes.

Re:Okay, I'll bite ... (2, Funny)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820553)

what happens when the bugs become resistant to these two drugs as well?

But that would imply that these organisms evolve. That's impossible! [ucomics.com]

Re:Okay, I'll bite ... (1)

camperslo (704715) | more than 7 years ago | (#19821907)

We'll get bone-eating bacteria?

Existing drugs are GOOD things (2, Interesting)

Slicebo (221580) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818883)

It's always good to see existing drugs being used in new ways, because it shortens the amount of time it takes to get the treatment to market.

Re:Existing drugs are GOOD things (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818981)

In other news, shut up.

Re:Existing drugs are GOOD things (3, Funny)

OwenDMoney (963991) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819609)

In other news, Viagra has been shown to reduce bone lose in old men.

No comment,

OwenDMoney

Why use Drugs? (5, Funny)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818911)

discovered that two drugs used to treat bone loss in old folks can both kill and short-circuit the 'sex life' of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Um, doesn't marriage do the same thing?

Just asking, because it would certainly save a lot of money if we just get these bacteria to marry.

Re:Why use Drugs? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818989)

That only short-circuits the sex life between the two that are married.

Re:Why use Drugs? (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819007)

Yes, but they'd have to marry in a state which didn't require a blood test.

Re:Why use Drugs? (5, Funny)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819093)

There are no male and female bacteria. Therefor that would be gay marriage. Do you support gay marriage? Why do you hate Jesus and America?

Re:Why use Drugs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19820529)

With the homosexualised media pushing buggery we will need more antibiotics. Filthy buggers!

Re:Why use Drugs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19822563)

"There are no male and female bacteria. Therefor that would be gay marriage. Do you support gay marriage? Why do you hate Jesus and America?"

Jesus - because of all the crimes committed by his people in his name.

America - because of all the crimes it commits in the name of it's people.

_________________
Smile - I may just be pulling your leg....

Re:Why use Drugs? (1)

chooks (71012) | more than 7 years ago | (#19823069)

Bacteria hate us for our freedom.

Re:Why use Drugs? (1)

Nexcis (962706) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819167)

Because bacteria have no sex would that not be a same sex marriage? I think G Dub would have quite a few insightful thoughts about your idea.

Re:Why use Drugs? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19819171)

Because we must protect the sanctity of marriage! Marriage must be between a man and a woman. Do you want to explain the bacterial couple next door to your kids? I know I don't.

Next you'll be pushing your agenda with books like "Johnny has Streptococcal Pharyngitis For a Daddy". For shame.

Re:Why use Drugs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19819449)

LOL. But we still have the problem of "swinger" and "prostitute" bacteria to figure out. Maybe marriage in tandem with a heavy, heavy dose of morality.

Re:Why use Drugs? (1)

Jeek Elemental (976426) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819453)

polled bacteria cites child support issues as the number 1 matrimony deterrant.

Re:Why use Drugs? (0, Redundant)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819611)

discovered that two drugs used to treat bone loss in old folks can both kill and short-circuit the 'sex life' of antibiotic-resistant bacteria


Viagra and Cialis are antibiotic?

Re:Why use Drugs? (1)

DrCode (95839) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820299)

Just asking, because it would certainly save a lot of money if we just get these bacteria to marry.

You've obviously never paid for a wedding.

Re:Why use Drugs? (1)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 7 years ago | (#19821835)

LOL!

No, my father in law did. :P

Great, let's overuse those (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818913)

So the bacteria become resistant to them, and we have to go back to good ole' chicken soup.

This reminds me very much of... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19818933)

My lovely horse, running through the field
Where are you going, with your fetlocks blowing in the wind?

I want to shower you with sugar lumps, and ride you over fences
Polish your hooves every single day, and bring you to the horse dentist

My lovely horse, you're a pony no more
Running around with a man on your back, like a train in the night...

Short-circuited sex life? (1)

Corpuscavernosa (996139) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818943)

...short-circuit the 'sex life' of antibiotic-resistant bacteria...

Something makes me think that I've been given the same drug. Or was that my science major in college? Shit.

short term solution (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 7 years ago | (#19818971)

so the drugs prevent genetic transer through the sex pilli so that the bacteria can not share genes and recombine them into new genes/phenotypes. that isnt a cure, it will slow thigns down but really I doubt all the drug resistant bacteria are suceptable to it and even if they were it will eventually be overcome and as a defense, become meaningless. now if we found a way to make bacteriophages induce this effect in bacteria THEN we might have a chance. viruses mutate and evolve along with their hosts and might actually put a damper on the epidemic. there are however, other ways of transferring DNA, the most important of which in this case is DNA transferred by way of bacteriophage. the phages don't do it "intentionally" it is just a consequence of their reproduction. in this case, if the drugs do work, they will fail in preventing DNA transfer through other mechanisms [there are a lot of ways this can happen]

Re:short term solution (4, Informative)

wytcld (179112) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819085)

You didn't read the whole article. The drugs were initially tested for the property of blocking the transfer of genes for multiple drug resistance. But they were surprised to find that it specifically killed those bacteria which had already received the upgrade package. Multiple drug resistance is evidently a specific trick - not multiple resistances to multiple drugs, but a single resistance mechanism that blocks nearly all drugs, and that can be passed from one species of bacteria to others. These newly-tested but available drugs kill any bacteria which have adopted that mechanism.

Re:short term solution (1)

revengebomber (1080189) | more than 7 years ago | (#19821869)

You didn't read the whole article. The drugs were initially tested for the property of blocking the transfer of genes for multiple drug resistance. But they were surprised to find that it specifically killed those bacteria which had already received the upgrade package.
That's not the DARPA chief!

Off Topic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19819095)

Nice sig.

Find some new bait. (3, Funny)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819017)

So, the few bugs that escape this new form of microbial torture will simply become stronger and even more resistant. Great. I am not a biologist, but are there any other ways of getting around this war of escalation?

Maybe scientists could find some other critter that the bugs like better, like cockroaches or the small dogs that live in women's purses.

Re:Find some new bait. (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819187)

yes. bacteria can be killed by bacteriophages which the Russians had used a lot due to antibiotics being less available and the viruses constantly evolve along side the bacteria. when the bacteria evolve to fight the virus, the viruses evolve back- a constant tug of war beween them that has managed to work for the last well, several billion years. as for making better targets that the bacteria like better than us, that is a very good idea. in fact, those sort of experiments may be taking place here in a few years or so to test if that idea actually works. in this case, instead of cockroaches and small dogs we'll probably be trying other bacteria or single cell life forms as better targets. modify the cell membrane receptors/cell biochemistry and voila! the bacteria ignore us and go after our little baited bacteria traps. [these traps would naturally have some enzyme or something capable of killing the bacteria]

Great... (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819437)

So we become the Vidiians when we use the Phage....

Re:Find some new bait. (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820297)

I'd donate my step-daughter's little shi^H^H^Hdog for testing.

Re:Find some new bait. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19821945)

I am not a biologist, but are there any other ways of getting around this war of escalation?

No.

Welcome to evolution. Mind the gap.

For a change, this is actually interesting. (4, Insightful)

TheMohel (143568) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819031)

I'm a skeptic about a lot of things in medicine (I live in that world), especially "wonder drugs", and the writer of TFA demonstrates his limited skills in microbiology enough to make me cringe. But the science here is going to be fun to see.

Don't get me wrong - we need to know the doses, the regimen, the side effects at antimicrobial dosing, and all the rest of the nuts-and-bolts pharmacology. On the other hand, the putative mechanism, which is to interfere with sharing of genes between bacteria, is in itself ground-breaking. Used properly (that is, not overused and used with care), this could prevent rapid resistance emergence in bacteria where the treatment itself takes weeks to months (osteomyelitis, for example, or infection with certain stubborn bugs). These drugs (etidronate and pamidronate) have their own not-insignificant side effect profile, of course, and there are no guarantees at this stage.

I'll be interested in the actual research, because TFA is filtered through a layer of ignorance and sensationalism, but it sounds interesting.

Re:For a change, this is actually interesting. (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819417)

... because TFA is filtered through a layer of ignorance and sensationalism ...

Which means it is in no way different from the bulk of Slashdot submissions.

Nah, it's pretty old school. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19819513)

> For a change, this is actually interesting.

It's pretty old school thinking. Everyone on Slashdot knows how to "short-circuit the 'sex life' of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria".

Simply get them hooked on Slashdot and if you really want to be sure, get them hooked on Star Trek and D&D.

Re:For a change, this is actually interesting. (1)

Some_Llama (763766) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820013)

"Used properly (that is, not overused and used with care)"

Maybe in America where everything needs a script (800mg ibuprofen.. come on) but not in other countries where you can buy antibiotics in a super saver 500 pill bottle. I believe this is how the problem started in the first place.

Re:For a change, this is actually interesting. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19820985)

the problem started in the first place.
Depends on which problem "the problem" is. If the FDA continues to approve the most powerful antibiotics known to man to cows in order to keep their diseased, scraggly bodies alive long enough to pass an inspection and become your dinner, then when you get infected by e.coli from these beasts, there simply will not be a treatment, you will die.

Let the bacteria read slashdot (4, Funny)

loteck (533317) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819087)

...also a proven way to virtually extinguish one's sex life.

Re:Let the bacteria read slashdot (1)

jimbug (1119529) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819157)

When I first skimmed the /. summary, the words 'sex-life' and 'old people' jumped out at me. Needless to say, I was very intrigued.

Re:Let the bacteria read slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19819289)

Why exactly does old people sex intrigue you? O_o

What's your problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19819329)

Not enough pRon spam, or missing your right hand?

Unnatural Selection (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819239)

Hopefully the doctors who prescribe this new cure won't just pump the environment full of it at any sign of anything wrong, the way generations of their fellow doctors have antibiotics to create today's resistant "superbugs". Every time around this treadmill it's harder to kill the new superbugs, and the more people get sick and die from them.

Re:Unnatural Selection (5, Interesting)

TheMohel (143568) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819457)

Always a concern, but the trend in medicine over the past decade or so has been to reduce the number of times we prescribe, even as we increase both the dose and duration of care when we do pull the trigger. Antibiotic resistance has been strongly linked to inadequate dosing (killing only the susceptible bugs, while letting the borderline-resistant clones reinforce themselves), as well as to courses too short or patient noncompliance.

Patients are part of the problem too, since there is a tendency (cultural in some cases, personal in others) to demand that a doctor "do something" to fix the problem. Antibiotics were perceived for a long time as something harmless to give in those circumstances, but that perception is fading fast. If anything, the trend now is to err on the side of letting things play out a little more to see if antibiotic therapy is really needed.

This has also caused physicians to have to explain the situation better. I know for myself that when I am explaining to a suspicious parent the reason that I'm not going to give their child an antibiotic for their viral infection, I don't waste a lot of time explaining resistance. If they already understand resistance, they're not asking for antibiotics. If they don't, it just sounds like I'm making things up. I focus instead on side effects and cost, and my typical (true) statement is "about all I can do with antibiotics would be to give your child diarrhea to go with her cold." This is surprisingly effective, especially in the parents of non-potty-trained toddlers.

None of which stops me from pulling out the stops when I'm faced with a septic kid or a real infection that needs to be nuked. In those cases, though, I'm very careful to make sure that the regimen I use is appropriate, considering the resistance patterns and the risk of making them worse.

Now if we could only get the idiots who lace animal feed with antibiotics to do the same. Ever wonder where resistant strains start? Hint: it ain't just in the hospitals.

Re:Unnatural Selection (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819679)

Antibiotic resistance has been strongly linked to inadequate dosing (killing only the susceptible bugs, while letting the borderline-resistant clones reinforce themselves), as well as to courses too short or patient noncompliance.

I didn't used to understand this well, thinking that basically you're still going to leave some bacteria alive, and they're going to be the most-uber-resistant bacteria of them all. But someone pointed out what may be obvious, which is that after the full regiment there are going to be few enough of these bacteria left that the human immune system can finish the job of wiping them out completely, leaving no antibiotic-resistant bacteria at all. Is this accurate?

Now if we could only get the idiots who lace animal feed with antibiotics to do the same. Ever wonder where resistant strains start? Hint: it ain't just in the hospitals.

Hormones and antibiotics in livestock has got to be the one of the worst abuses of public health I can think of at this time.

Re:Unnatural Selection (2, Interesting)

TheMohel (143568) | more than 7 years ago | (#19821101)

But someone pointed out what may be obvious, which is that after the full regiment there are going to be few enough of these bacteria left that the human immune system can finish the job of wiping them out completely, leaving no antibiotic-resistant bacteria at all. Is this accurate?
In essence, yes. In fact, people who have immune deficiencies are particularly likely to develop resistant bugs, and we suspect that at least part of the problem is that the immune system can't quite finish the job.

Re:Unnatural Selection (1)

Some_Llama (763766) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820063)

"Ever wonder where resistant strains start? Hint: it ain't just in the hospitals."

Mexico? My mother in law works at a farm that produces fruit with a lot of immagrant worker.. they routinely go back to Mexico to see family and pick her up Antibiotics because she likes to pop a few when she has a cold (yes a few, yes a cold).

I had her get me some because i regularly get bronchitis (I smoke) and when it gets infected it's hard to get doctors to prescribe antibiotics. she brought me a bottle of 500 tablets. No script needed, no doctor warnings etc...

Re:Unnatural Selection (3, Interesting)

TheMohel (143568) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820189)

Yep. I've got patients who do the same (I live in an area where we have a lot of Hispanic immigrants, legal and otherwise). Nothing I can do about it except to talk with them, which I do. I try to encourage them to be reasonable and to take an entire course when they start one (nothing's worse than an occasional antibiotic pill). I have mixed success, but I don't expect perfection and I think my attitude helps the situation. I do get a lot of "do you suggest I start this" kinds of calls and questions and I treat those calls as victories.

This gets me into the whole doctor-as-gatekeeper-for-pills thing that drives me nuts. I challenge colleagues once in a while: in an environment where all medications were available at retail, could they still justify their fees? Could they market themselves well enough to avoid starvation? I think I could, because of the kind of medicine I practice (and because I can sometimes go a dozen patients between giving a prescription), but it's definitely something honest physicians should be asking themselves.

In the no-Rx-required environment, though, there's no question that resistance emerges rapidly. Fortunately, the antibiotics available in Mexico are a small subset of the ones we use here, and most of the ones that patients can buy OTC have broad therapeutic indices (overdose doesn't hurt you much) and are from antibiotic classes (penicillins, macrolides) where we have later-generation alternatives that avoid the common resistances. It's a fluid situation, though, and one that has infectious disease specialists always a little on edge.

Re:Unnatural Selection (1)

Peale (9155) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820495)

As a doctor, I urge you to read these sites:

http://www.fluoroquinolones.org/ [fluoroquinolones.org]
http://www.antibiotics.org/ [antibiotics.org]

And pass this knowledge along. I, along with many many other people, have to live in pain now because of this.

Re:Unnatural Selection (4, Insightful)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820803)

As a doctor, I want links to studies, good studies, not just anecdotal evidence.

Re:Unnatural Selection (2, Interesting)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819471)

I hate to have to tell you this, but fewer people get sick and die from the "superbugs" than died from their predecessors. Despite what you were taught or at least led to believe, as a general rule, antibiotic resistant bacteria are not "stronger" than the non-antibiotic resistant versions. That is why you very rarely hear of someone getting infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria outside of a hospital. Antibiotic resistant bacteria are at a significant competitive disadvantage when no antibiotics are present. Many people are not aware disease causing bacteria spend most of their existence not causing illness (for various reasons), in these settings the non antibiotic resistant bacteria generally completely overrun the antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Re:Unnatural Selection (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819541)

I didn't say the superbugs were more lethal than antibiotic-sensitive strains, or anything else except that they are antibiotic resistant.

I don't know where you get your stats from, but antibiotic-resistant pathogens [wikipedia.org] are a serious health threat. Unless there is specific evidence that resistance mechanisms offer significant disadvantages to competing with sensitive strains, then it's pretty clear that the resistance to a lethal environmental element is an advantage, and that the resistant strain will eventually succeed in replacing the sensitive strain in the environment to which it is better fit to survive to reproduce.

Re:Unnatural Selection (2, Interesting)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819761)

Most (if not all) antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria accomplish this resistance by disabling the protein which the antibiotic attacks. The reason they had said protein in the first place was because it offered a significant competitive advantage. To be precise, the protein in question in most cases has to do with carrying chemicals across the cell membrane. The bacteria are significantly less efficient at transferring chemicals across the cell membrane without the protein that they have deactivated to be resistant to antibiotics. It is sort of like if you avoid being exposed to poison by not opening your mouth, the poison wouldn't get in, but it would be harder to eat.

Re:Unnatural Selection (2, Informative)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 7 years ago | (#19821367)

That's not necessarily true- there are quite a few ways bacteria have become resistant to drugs- because there are quite a few different drug targets scientists have tried.

Before even penicillin, there were the miraculous sulfa drugs, which block a bacteria's ability to make folic acid: bacteria learned to uptake folate just as we do.

Beta-lactams like penicillin prevent bacteria from making peptidoglycan, the material of their cell walls: bacteria came up with beta-lactamase to break it down.

Better beta-lactams like oxacillin and methicillin were developed to be more effective at killing bacteria before lactamase neutralized them: mutant forms of proteins involved in making peptidoglycan (and were resistant to binding lactam drugs) began to proliferate, and now we of course have Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus to deal with. (And studies have shown that MRSA bacteremia is just as deadly as regular SA, even correcting for the fact that MRSA tends to hit hospital patients. The rise in community-associated MRSA suggests it can fend for itself in the wild as well.)

Quinolones attack bacterial topoisomerases, the enzymes they use to wind and unwind DNA: mutant topoisomerases beat these.

Macrolides (most of the -mycin family) and oxazolidones bind to bacterial ribosomes to stop protein translation: modified ribosomal subunits beat these.

Vancomycin prevents peptidoglycan formation in by preventing incorporation of the monomers that make it up: modified monomers, and now we see VRSA.

We keep finding new targets for antibiotics, but as the Red Queen said, "It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place."

Re:Unnatural Selection (2, Informative)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820947)

Actually, it would be unwise to prescribe these drugs recklessly for another reason- the bisphosphonates, the class of compounds which these two drugs belong to, can have a rather serious side effect when taken in high doses for long periods. Bisphosphonates taken in high doses for long periods can cause osteonecrosis of the jaw, though it should be noted that etidronate and clodronate are older drugs with far less potency than newer drugs in the class like alendronate and zoledronic acid.

3rd Leading Cause of Death in the US (0)

cromar (1103585) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819427)

Reasearchers ... have discovered that two drug kill and short-circuit the 'sex life' of antibiotic-resistant bacteria blamed for nearly 100,000 hospital deaths across the country each year.

This is appalling, and something the CDC [cdc.gov] won't tell you (ha). In the US, Doctors/Healthcare are the third leading cause of death [chattanoogahealth.com] . That's about 250,000 deaths a year (~100,000 are from negative side effects of "legitimate" treatment).

I've always distrusted doctors (however well intentioned they may be). Now I avoid them like the plague! My advice -- stay healthy if at all possible and avoid these crazy drugs they say they understand!

Re:3rd Leading Cause of Death in the US (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19819801)

This is a surprising number yes, I bet they save many more than that though. Thats why I still go to the doctor.

Re:3rd Leading Cause of Death in the US (2, Insightful)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820151)

Yes, why would there be a lot of deaths in the place all the really sick people go to? Anything so obvious must be an evil plot.

Re:3rd Leading Cause of Death in the US (2, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#19821167)

Yes, why would there be a lot of deaths in the place all the really sick people go to?
OP is referring to cause of death, not location at time of death. Far more than 250,000 people die in hospitals each year.

It is fact that some avoidable deaths are caused by healthcare practitioners, though efforts are made to minimize this. Unfortunately, the US does pretty poorly in this regard, in comparison to other nations with "1st world" healthcare systems.

I don't agree with the OP that doctors are to be avoided -- but I do believe that patients should educate themselves and question the actions of their doctors, particularly wrt prescriptions. There's a reason pharmacists, and not doctors, are the most trusted professionals in the US.

Where do they get the drugs from? (1)

JazzXP (770338) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819475)

both kill and short-circuit the 'sex life' Do they extract the drug from slashdot readers? :-P

Children of Men (0)

n3tcat (664243) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819519)

Hopefully this doesn't lead to an 18 year famine of child-birth because the sperm couldn't find the f*cking egg anymore.

What that "sex" really is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19819613)

So you know, the mechanism the article is referring to is most likely conjugation [wikipedia.org] , though this is by no means the only method that bacteria can use to transfer genes; I hope that this drug doesn't only target conjugation or a specific type of plasmid or something of that sort. The other major method (besides transduction which requires a bacteriophage) is transformation, which would probably be slower than conjugation but AFAIK would not be easy to prevent without completely destroying the DNA.

Don't trivialise this (3, Interesting)

CrankyOldBastard (945508) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819621)

It's easy to be a sceptic and ask about 'and what about when the bugs become resistant to this'. As a person who had his life ruined by MRSA, I know too well the impact these types of infection have on individuals and families. Anything that can extend the reach of antibiotics (particularly the less toxic ones - I was only 2 or 3 days off being killed by the antibiotic that beat my infection) and decrease the chance of resistance is a good thing.

Hopefully this won't be used promiscuously, and I hope they'll work out the interactions with other treatments, as quite often treatment is multi-modal.

I wouldn't wish what I go through due to MRSA on anyone (except my stepfather, but that's another story altogether.

Re:Don't trivialise this (1)

revengebomber (1080189) | more than 7 years ago | (#19822021)

So where's DisturbedChildhood(-1) when you need it?

natural selection (1)

SolusSD (680489) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819665)

in simple life forms, such as bacteria, the mutations neccesary to change the organism in a useful way can happen in far fewer generations. combined with the speed at which these ateria reproduce it is only a matter of time before they adapt to this new treatment. the trick is staying ahead of them-- which is difficult.

Evolutionary Cost (1, Interesting)

Kashra (1109287) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819683)

Undoubtedly, bacteria will learn to "get around" these drugs, just as they have traditional antibiotics. But don't look at evolution as a magical process -- everything comes at a cost. Drugs attack essential pieces of a bug's life machinery, and evolving around them is often difficult and reduces the survivability of those bugs, compared to non-resistant strains (unless, of course, they are being selected by the drug in question).

You can expect, the moment we stop using beta-lactam antibiotics, resistance to them will disappear from the population. So combining multiple vectors of antibiotics is useful, both in eliminating the bacteria (for now) and in making them weaker (in the future).

In an ideal situation, multiple drugs would attack systems that are so critical that evolving around them would make the bacteria so weak as to be unable to defend against the host immune system.

100K deaths (2, Insightful)

Anomalyst (742352) | more than 7 years ago | (#19819921)

100K deaths per year, thats more than an order of magnitude than the number of deaths attributed to terrorism in the last decade. Why are they telling us terrorists are dangerous? Imagine the lives saved if we poured half a trillion dollars to combat this, plus no armed forces casualties and no need to tap our phones or sniff our internet traffic.

Re:100K deaths (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19820697)

Terrorism is dangerous to them, bacteria is dangerous to people.

Re:100K deaths (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19820753)

An infection in their ideology vs an infection in your brain ;-)

Good, but no substitute for responsibility (2, Insightful)

DrBuzzo (913503) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820181)

I'm glad to hear that there is a new avenue, but as stated, there's no certainty that resistance couldn't be acquired to these drugs. Right now, bacterial infections that are resistant to multiple kinds of antibiotics are still a small portion of infections in general, and new antibiotics help too.

But ultimately the best way to prevent this is for people NOT to insist on being given antibiotics for infections that are probably viral, for people to not stop taking their antibiotics when the symptoms are gone, even if their prescription calls for more and to NEVER take antibiotics you happen to have without confirming with a doctor that you need them.

This is how this happens.. the infection is not wiped out entirely and thus some bacteria survive, even survive the body's immune system. Antibiotics are truely one of the the closest things to miraculous which medicine has. An infection that would kill you will go away with a few pills. DON'T GO AND RUIN THAT! Or you will end up dying anyway, because I will come and kill you! Seriously... stop that BS and we'll at least severely slow down the evolution of drug resistant bacteria

Go ahead - laugh it up (3, Informative)

djupedal (584558) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820351)

...but until you've had an opportunity to get up close and personal with CA-MRSA, you DO NOT know how much fun you are missing.

Starts out like an ingrown hair or pimple. Might even be a spider bite. Then it gets angry. Take a large marble...light it on fire and have it surgically planted underneath, say, two layers of skin. Day three and the redness is now inches in diameter and the bump is still growing and...damn! It hurts! Burns like hell! Pimple my ass! Get that thing out of there! You can't sleep from the pain and you find yourself wondering which would be the better method to dig it out: kitchen cutlery or claw-hammer. In any case, if you don't have a doctor lance it, you're going to have to do it yourself.

Day four and it is open, draining and talk about cheese!! The stuff draining from the now open wound is so toxic, it blisters the surrounding skin. Makes it a bit difficult to remember to trash your clothes, bedsheets, etc., but at least the burning has lessened...a bit.

Ten or twelve days later, after finally getting on an anti-biotic (tetracycline?) that can put up a fight, the fluid draining out is almost stopped, the redness is almost gone and a bit of scar tissue is starting to form. Good news is, now that you know the routine, you can put up a slightly better fight next time - and there will be a next time...unless you died from this incident, of course. You did wash your hands before you helped your kids get dressed this morning, right...?

Re:Go ahead - laugh it up (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820459)

MRSA isn't particular more potent than other staph infections. They just won't die easily. That and your body has very little experience fighting MRSA itself.

try bacteriophage therapy -- from Russia with love (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 7 years ago | (#19820407)

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL9910/S00096.htm [scoop.co.nz]
"Phage Therapy: where communism succeeded and capitalism failed. Western capitalism has another kind of correctness that can be at least as disabling; a correctness based on profit, and an unwillingness to check the growth of an industry that is too lucrative to too many people. The story of antibiotics is becoming one of those stories. An elementary application of Evolution 101 tells us that bacteria evolve. In an antibiotic-rich environment, selective pressure favours those bacteria strains that are resistant to antibiotics. It's virtually a tautology. The wonder is that we have got away with abusing antibiotic therapy for so long. The antibiotic-resistant superbugs have now arrived. The use of antibiotics as a cure-all is more stupid than anything that happened in the name of Lysenko. Antibiotic therapy used as anything other than a backup medicine defies the basic laws of evolution. As a general means of treating bacterial infections (and as food additives), the use of antibiotics only makes sense in terms of creationist biology. In creation science, all species are fixed. Antibiotic A will cure disease A for all of the time that God grants us. ... It is embarrassing when western science is out-trumped, especially by the "communists". Usually, when out-trumped, we don't tell anyone. That's what happened here. Not only did we not have the nous to start a western programme in bacteriophage research; we looked the other way when the files of phials threatened to be destroyed following the breakup of the Soviet Union, and during the little reported civil war that engulfed Georgia a few years ago. So much for the knowledge economies of the west. How can such valuable knowledge be so cheap?"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phage_therapy [wikipedia.org]

"Phage therapy is the therapeutic use of lytic bacteriophages to treat pathogenic bacterial infections. Bacteriophages, or "phages" are viruses that invade only bacterial cells and, in the case of lytic phages, cause the bacterium to burst and die, thus releasing more phages. Phage therapy is one of the viable alternatives to antibiotics, being developed for clinical use in the 21st century by many research groups in Europe and the US. After having been extensively used and developed mainly in former Soviet Union countries for about 90 years, phage therapy is now becoming more available in other countries such as USA for a variety of bacterial and poly-microbial biofilm infections.[1] Phage therapy has many applications in human medicine as well as dentistry, veterinary science and agriculture."

100000 country wide (1)

dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) | more than 7 years ago | (#19822157)

...nearly 100,000 hospital deaths across the country each year.

Hurry! Get this medicine to Andorra [wikipedia.org] before it's too late!

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