Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Learning to fight an adversary that won’t stay down

22.02.2005


New biomolecular technologies have largely failed to deliver the hoped-for knockout punch breakthrough against the defences of disease-causing bacteria, says a leading Canadian specialist in antibiotic resistance.



Techniques such as genomic sequencing and high throughput screening were expected to make the development of new antibiotic compounds easier and more productive. But in most cases the microbes continue to hold the upper hand – and if three billion years of bacterial history is any kind of track record, we’re in for an endless running battle, says Dr. Julian Davies, a microbiologist at the University of British Columbia.

"We haven’t evolved in our thinking sufficiently to be able to match the microbes," says Dr. Davies, Scientific Director of the Canadian Bacterial Diseases Network. "Pharmaceutical companies and other researchers have put hundreds of millions of dollars into ’modern’ approaches to antibiotic discovery over the past six or seven years and this has failed miserably."


The scientist, whose work is supported by Science and Engineering Research Canada (NSERC), has organized a symposium on the evolutionary genetics of antibiotic resistance at the 2005 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington D.C.

The ongoing appearance of new pathogen varieties like multi-resistant E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the bacterium that causes methicillin-resistant tuberculosis, provide good examples of the challenges we face, says Dr. Davies.

Ironically, he says, advances in molecular biology techniques have shown just how adept these pathogens are at adapting to anything we can throw at them. Innovations such as highly efficient polymerase chain reaction (PCR) have made it possible to identify and study the many genes responsible for antibiotic resistance in hospitals and the environment.

"What has been found is that there are more antibiotic resistance genes around than we ever realized," says Dr. Davies. "There are more than 300 genes now known that confer resistance to one or more antimicrobials. And they keep coming."

However, the mapping of bacterial genomes has not yet helped yield solutions to the problem, says Dr. Davies.

He adds that our understanding of the activity of microbes must extend beyond the newspaper headlines reporting outbreaks of these "superbugs," so that we can put the role of these organisms in the proper evolutionary perspective. This subject, and antibiotic resistance in particular, has fascinated Davies since he began postdoctoral work on antibiotics and resistance mechanisms at Harvard Medical School in the early 1960s.

"The microbes are evolving genetically, and the pharmaceutical companies are evolving chemically; the two don’t match," says Dr. Davies, adding that doctors who deal with microbial diseases in hospitals must remain cautious about exposing the bacterial pathogens to the newest and most effective drugs so as to avoid overuse and the accompanying onset of resistance.

"There are a relatively small number of antibiotics that have come out that are new, and some of them are very potent and act against most resistant strains," he says. "But the clinicians rightly try to keep these things in reserve for when they are really needed."

Dr. Davies’ AAAS Presentation
Microbial Genetic Jugglery: How Bacteria Became Antibiotic Resistant
Sunday February 20, 2005
10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Dr. Julian Davies | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ubc.ca

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Study suggests possible new target for treating and preventing Alzheimer's
02.12.2016 | Oregon Health & Science University

nachricht The first analysis of Ewing's sarcoma methyloma opens doors to new treatments
01.12.2016 | IDIBELL-Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

IHP presents the fastest silicon-based transistor in the world

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

InLight study: insights into chemical processes using light

05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

High-precision magnetic field sensing

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>