On a long timeline, the superbugs are ultimately going to win against antibiotics.
For starters, there are almost 5 million trillion trillion bacteria on this planet. This is a number with 30 zeros in it. On the other hand, there are only 7.6 billion humans.
But the biggest threat these bacteria pose is not just their massive presence. In fact, it is the fact that our best defense systems against these organisms are getting less effective.
Very little research is going on for the discovery of new antibiotics. At the same time, more and more bacteria are becoming immune to the present ones. This means that humans are currently on the losing side of the war.
The first-ever look at this increasing antibiotic resistance’s impact was in 2013 thanks to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The researchers estimated that the antibiotic-resistant bacteria hit almost 2 million people every year. Of these, nearly 23,000 people die.
The infections mostly begin in a healthcare environment like a nursing home or a hospital. However, their presence can be almost anywhere.
Some examples of these superbugs include the drug-resistant STDs and those causing deadly bouts of diarrhea.
By 2050, the deaths caused by bacteria may rise up to 10 million per annum.
Humans are currently living in a global crisis of health. But there may be some home.
This is particularly true now when the scientists may have discovered a new solution involving amino acids and peptides.
The History of Antibiotics
For a brief period of time, humans have the upper hand against these bacterial infections.
It all started in 1928 with the discovery of penicillin- the first ever true antibiotic.
Alexander Fleming, the founder, did not patent his discovery. The reason he gave was that this was not his discovery but of nature’s. He had just stumbled upon it accidentally.
Since then, there was a dramatic change in the discovery and the development of the drug.
In the last few decades, a lot of major drug makers are backing out of the antibiotic development business.
Developing antibiotics meant to kill the worst bacterial offenders is not a good business. The drug companies may have to spend over 2 billion dollars to take a drug through phase I trials and market approvals.
Hence, it does not seem like a good idea to spend such a massive amount of money on a drug with a low need.
Bacteria are battling with the modern drugs. These creatures are even aware of their next, third, and even the 12th move.
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In simpler words, the bugs are outsmarting humans and their drugs. If nothing is ensured to correct this, disasters may follow. Something as little as dental work will be causing a painful death sentence soon.
Humanity needs to be careful with these antibiotics. They need to put in more efforts to find the new ones. The ones that bacteria are not resistant to yet.
A New Hope
A recent research present in the Journal of ACS Synthetic Biology is the new hope in the times of dismay. This study suggests the likelihood of novel antibiotics hiding inside the antimicrobial peptides (AMPs).
These AMPs are present as a part of the natural defences of all living organisms. They are responsible for killing foreign invaders including viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
Previous evidence proves the role of AMPs as excellent candidates for developing new antimicrobials. However, they may not be strong enough to kill bacteria on their own.
The hardest part of this process is choosing the right ones. The peptides or any two or more amino acids joined together- that need to be targeted for attack resistant bacteria may be hard to find.
So, in this study, the scientists used a “discovery tool” to browse through the protein databases. They looked for small patterns in code, specifically the 20-letter code, or the building blocks of proteins that are necessary for life.
According to the scientists, this tool is like a search engine. This allows the scientists to look at things no one has ever looked before.
What Did the Scientists Find?
The scientists found that a few combinations of amino acids were actually effective in killing bacteria. Some of them were more powerful than the others in doing this job.
One of them was the peptide named pepsin A. This peptide normally helps your stomach digest food. Researchers found that it can also kill some common bacterial offenders. This includes salmonella and E. coli, the bacteria that you may encounter if you suffer from food poisoning.
Besides killing the bacteria, these new antibiotics were not toxic to the human body. This was true in a laboratory setting. The scientists also guaranteed its safety by trying it in skin infections in mice.
These peptides represent a new class of potential antibiotics as per the researchers.
As per the scientists, these peptides serve as an important target for creating new drugs and fighting off deadly bacteria. This is because you can easily program these peptides. Moreover, you can synthesize their results in the lab for confirming that the algorithm’s searches were accurate.
Previously, the scientists were not sure about the role of these molecules. There is still some testing required for further confirmation.
While a new antibiotic discovery is here today, it may take over a decade to take it to the market.
The scientists are hopeful to bridge this gap and make it a lot shorter.
What’s the Take?
The government and medical officials are busy raising red flags about the antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Other government outfits such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are also working.
These agencies are actively making up for some part of the investment that the big pharmaceutical companies do not want to provide.
There is a little more interest in the pharmaceutical companies now, as per the scientists. However, it is alarming how a lot of these companies are not interested.