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 A whole-body approach to understanding chemosensory cells
13.12.2017 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

nachricht Research reveals how diabetes in pregnancy affects baby's heart
13.12.2017 | University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences

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: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A whole-body approach to understanding chemosensory cells

13.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope

13.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cellular Self-Digestion Process Triggers Autoimmune Disease

13.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>