Monday, March 29, 2010

Future of Antibiotics

Monsieur Coyne has a section in his book that explains how antibiotics are losing their edge to the bacteria that they were designed to kill. For example, in 1941, penicillin was able to "wipe out every strain of staph in the world," yet now, "more than 95 percent of staph strains are resistant to penicillin (131). Tuberculosis is making a comeback, as are other types of bacteria.
What does this mean for the future of medicine? Will antibiotics become obsolete? Is it feasible to ban their use or only use them in certain situations to prolong the effectiveness they still have? What other kinds of medicines are being developed to fight bacteria while antibiotics lose their power? Research, and I implore you to post your findings in response to this post.


  1. Hola Señor Richter and anyone else reading this. While this finding suggests that there is no point in using antibiotics anymore, we should not give up all hope of antibiotics fighting bacterial infections. We can still have hope because the theory of evolution "doesn't predict that everything will evolve: if the right mutations can't or don't arise, evolution won't happen" (Coyne 131). This means that not all bacteria can or will evolve so that they are resistant to antibiotics - one example of such bacteria that Coyne brings up is Streptococcus (he also brings up the fact that polio and measles viruses haven't evolved resistance to their respective vaccines). It's too early to say that it would be a good idea to ban the use of antibiotics because some still exist that are effective. However, some new alternatives are currently being used, such as prevention techniques and education and phage therapy. Developed in the Soviet Union in the 1960's, phage therapy is the therapeutic use of lytic bacteriophages to treat pathogenic bacterial infections. Research has been done to determine the effectiveness of phage therapy in animal test subjects. A study published in the January 2010 issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology found that an anti-salmonella phage cocktail administered to healthy pigs may limit transmission of the bacteria from infected pigs during transport to processing facilities and ultimately minimize the cases of human salmonella food-borne illness. In a preliminary study researchers inoculated 3 to 4 week-old pigs with salmonella bacteria and then immediately administered the anti-salmonella phage cocktail. Results showed that salmonella colonization was reduced by 99.0 to 99.9% in the tonsils and parts of the small and large intestines. Additionally, they tested the efficacy of phage therapy in a production-like setting by inoculating four market-weight pigs with salmonella bacteria and placing them in a holding pen for 48 hours enabling contamination to occur. Two groups of healthy pigs, one receiving the anti-salmonella phage cocktail and the other a control, were then comingled with the infected pigs in the contaminated pen. Results showed significantly reduced salmonella concentrations in parts of both the small and large intestines. The encouraging developments show that Phage Therapy has the potential to be a useful alternative antimicrobial therapy. However, much work still needs to be done to optimise the treatment protocols and to provide solid evidence on the safety of the treatment to the highest standards. Nonetheless, with the inevitable rise in antibiotic resistance and the diminishing pipeline of new antibiotics, phage therapy may prove to be a valuable and timely weapon in the fight against bacterial infections.

  2. As Mr. Richter has pointed out, antibiotics are losing some of their killing power. Bacteria are becoming resistant to these commonly used drugs because of evolution. These deadly bacteria, that had once been killed by antibiotics, are now developing different means of resistance against antibiotics. These resistances come in the form of new, antibiotic destroying enzymes that become coded for in the DNA of the bacteria due to mutations. Then, these are passed along to subsequent generations and eventually the entire population of the bacteria are resistant to the antibiotic. Another way in which bacteria become resistant is by developing less permeable membranes that block antibiotics from entering the bacteria.
    What does this mean about the future of medicine? Thats a good question. It may mean that antibiotics have to be used more sparingly, or a cycle of treatments by different antibiotics. This could decrease the ability of the bacteria to become resistant because it would be less likely to develop a mutation to combat the antibiotic, or if it did mutate to become resistant to a certain antibiotic, it would be killed by the treatment of a different one. Therefore, different treatments of antibiotics could change. Also, entirely new treatments may be necessary. Currently, bacteriophages are being tested as new modes to combat bacteria. Bacteriophages are viruses that only infect bacteria. One setback in bacteriophages is the specificity of the phages. Each phage only infects a certain bacteria. Therefore, doctors must diagnose the problem more accurately in order to use the correct phage. However, the use of phage "cocktails" could allow for less specific diagnoses.
    Also, phages can be used in conjuction with antibiotics in order to reduce the likelihood of the bacteria developing a resistance. For example, the use of a bacteriophage on E. coli can indirectly enhance the ability of quinolones (an antibiotic) to kill the bacteria. The indirect relationship keeps the bacteria from developing a resistance. In this way, antibiotics can continue being used and being successful if used together with a bacteriophage.

  3. Bacteria are one of nature's wonders. In time it will always be one step ahead of us. We know that the Earth is only able to hold a certain amount of people. In order to keep a balanced population, I believe that in the future there will be a bacterial strain that will not be conquerable by humans, and we will have to suffer the consequences until someone discovers a cure, or it brings the human race to extinction. It is harsh to think, but we are only making the bacteria stronger and more resistant to our medicine. A perfect example would be the staph strains that are resistant to penicillin. We just helped it evolve, and eventually there will be a point were our medicine would not be effective on the bacteria. Back in the day, if someone got a disease, then they would suffer the consequences. That was how it was to be. We were meant to cope with diseases in the natural way. Though now we have to suffer, and that will be because the future of medicine looks really bad. If we keep using antibiotics, then bacteria will become resistant, and with every time it gets resistant, it will get harder and harder to find a cure. Antibiotics will not become obsolete for two reasons. One reason being that the resistance will become stronger, and that just means it will be a challenge to see if we are physically capable of finding a cure. The second reason is brought up by Sara when she quotes Coyne saying that the theory of evolution "doesn't predict that everything will evolve: if the right mutations can't or don't arise, evolution won't happen" (131). This is really important because when we develop an antibiotic, we are hoping that it does not mutate. Eventually when we get to the higher levels of mutation, we better hope that it does not mutate because as I said, it would just make finding a cure harder for us.
    To help with using the antibiotics, I would say if the disease does not kill, don't use any antibiotics. Let the body handle the outsiders the natural way. Regardless if we use antibiotics, we will always have some strand of it in time, and it will affect others. We use antibiotics to speed up the process, but if we just let our body do the job for a couple days, we wouldn't need the antibiotics to help cure us.
    What types of new medicines that are being implored now instead of antibiotics is the use of natural remedies. I have family friends that use this, and they have not gotten sick in a long time. They take vitamins, meditate, etc. They need to calm the body down, and relieve it from the natural stress that it suffers day to day. From the source, anything that is fake essential harms your body, and one of these is added preservatives.
    The way we care for our body will essential tell us how we will live in the future. If we care for ourselves, by eating what we are suppose to, and exercise we are on a good way to be living a healthy life. Natural selection will help determine which one of us is capable of surviving to the next generation, and that will depend on how well we care for ourselves. If we stay away from antibiotics, then we will probably be well off later in life. Another way is to somehow make something for bacteria that is like vaccines. Though this would truly take a genius to makes something of this sort.


    Sara's comment