Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

From Russia with gloves

23.04.2002


Ex-Soviet Union viruses could fill antibiotic gap.



Russian remedies could take out hardy US bacteria. Long-abandoned by Western medicine, viruses that naturally kill microbes are being imported as a potential substitute for antibiotics.

The emergence of multi-drug-resistant bacteria is intensifying the search for antibiotic replacements. Bemoaning the problem, clinician Glenn Morris of the University of Maryland in College Park got an idea from a colleague from the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Morris explains: "He said, ’why don’t you use ’phage therapy?’; I said, ’what’s ’phage therapy?’."


’Phages - more properly, bacteriophages - are viruses that are harmless to humans but kill bacteria. They were widely researched as a means to tackle disease until the 1940s. When potent antibiotics appeared on the scene, the West discarded them.

Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union pursued ’phage therapy, so ’phage creams, pills and plasters are commonly available there. Now Morris and his colleagues are carrying out basic tests to update the treatments for US product licenses.

Worktops contaminated with the foodborne bacteria Listeria are clean within 24 hours of ’phage treatment, he told the Experimental Biology 2002 meeting in New Orleans on Sunday. Salmonella and Escherichia coli are similarly wiped out. ’Phages could be used in food production or packaging, Morris suggests.

Unlike antibiotics, ’phages kill only a specific bacterial type, leaving other, beneficial bugs intact. For example, antibiotic resistant strains of the gut bacteria Enterococcus, which can cause dangerous infections after surgery or in chemotherapy patients, are also being tackled.

We are naturally surrounded by ’phages. The type that Morris is using attack and multiply inside bacteria then split them apart to escape. The ’phages keep killing until their victims run out, and then quietly die.

Cold science

Part of the reason that the West dropped ’phages was that bacteria might evade them, says Richard Young, who studies pathogenic microbes at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A single change in the bacterial receptor to which they bind could render it resistant to the virus: "It was viewed as its Achilles heel," he says.

A mixture of 30-40 different ’phages all aimed at the same bug should get around this problem. "A cocktail is important," agrees Heidi Kaplan, who studies antibiotic-resistant bacteria at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston.

"US science tends to have a prejudice against Soviet science," adds Morris, who now collaborates with the Eliava Institute of Bacteriophage, Microbiology and Virology in Tbilisi, Georgia. But Morris is not alone in trying to bring down the scientific cold wall - two small biotech companies besides his are also on the case.

HELEN PEARSON | © Nature News Service

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Investigators may unlock mystery of how staph cells dodge the body's immune system
22.09.2017 | Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

nachricht Monitoring the heart's mitochondria to predict cardiac arrest?
21.09.2017 | Boston Children's Hospital

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: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>