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 Microgel powder fights infection and helps wounds heal
14.11.2018 | Michigan Technological University

nachricht Spread of deadly eye cancer halted in cells and animals
13.11.2018 | Johns Hopkins Medicine

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: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Massive impact crater from a kilometer-wide iron meteorite discovered in Greenland

15.11.2018 | Earth Sciences

When electric fields make spins swirl

15.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Discovery of a cool super-Earth

15.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>