04 December 2020

Protection against resistance

A drug acting as an anti-antibiotic has been found

Georgy Golovanov, Hi-tech+

The discovery of antibiotics has become one of the most important achievements of mankind in the twentieth century, but decades of excessive use have led to the emergence of resistance to them in bacteria. A team of specialists from the USA found that one of the medicines approved by regulators acts as an "anti-antibiotic", reducing the development of resistance to antibacterial drugs.

Article by Morley et al. An adjunctive therapy administered with an antibiotic prevention enhancement of antibiotic-resistant clones of a colonizing opportunistic pathogen is published in the journal eLife – VM.

The emergence of resistance to antibiotics is an example of the work of evolution. When a drug destroys a population of bacteria, several million certainly survive, often due to random genetic mutations. The surviving "superbugs" are more likely to pass on these properties to their offspring, which provided them with an advantage.

Over time, the drugs can become completely useless against whole species of bacteria, so scientists and doctors are forced to turn to new drugs – until they also cease to work. Gradually, the list of effective antibiotics is coming to an end, and the "dark era of medicine" is looming on the horizon again, when most major infections will again become deadly.

While some groups of pharmacologists are hastily inventing new antibiotics, a team of University of Pennsylvania and The University of Michigan went the other way. Scientists have created a therapy that can help in the fight against resistance – something like an "anti-antibiotic" that allows you to use conventional antibiotics without starting a dangerous evolutionary process.

The researchers studied one of the types of enterococci – Enterococcus faecium – which lives in the intestine. There it does not cause harm, but it can spread to other parts of the body and cause infection – urinary tract infection or sepsis. Worse, he has a dangerous strain resistant to the antibiotics vancomycin and daptomycin.

Therefore, scientists began to look for ways to protect intestinal bacteria from the action of antibiotics. And we paid attention to the existing drug cholestyramine, which, as it was already known, binds daptomycin. During the experiment, they injected the mice with an antibiotic and, at the same time, injected some orally with cholestyramine. Together, the two drugs reduced the volume of E. faecium bacteria in the feces by about 80 times compared to the control group.


Drawing by Andrew Cheshire from Penn State's 'Anti-antibiotic' press release allows for use of antibiotics without driving resistance.

"We have shown that cholestyramine binds the antibiotic daptomycin and can act as an 'anti-antibiotic', preventing the penetration of systematically administered daptomycin into the intestine," said Andrew Reed, lead author of the study.

The authors of the discovery hope that the new method will replenish the arsenal of tools that help slow down the emergence of antibacterial resistance, while scientists are looking for new drugs and ways to fight superbugs.

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