One of the largest growing problems for the future is the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. For almost a century, antibiotics have been exceptionally effective at combating and killing off illness-causing bacteria. However, it has recently been discovered that antibiotics have steadily diminishing turns as time progresses due to the evolutionary response of bacteria. Bacteria are steadily becoming reinforcing their vulnerabilities against antibiotics over time due to natural evolution, which has lead to whole strains becoming more resistant to certain treatments. This is an incredibly concerning trend, because it is signals a future where treatments for certain diseases and illnesses will become increasingly unresponsive. This trend has pushed researchers to create new medicines that focus on different avenues to kill off bacteria, creating the equivalent of an arms race between researchers and bacteria. The good news is that there are alternatives to antibiotics being developed.
PEG-2S, a potential alternative to antibiotics
An exciting new breakthrough in the field was found by a research team from St. Boniface and the University of Manitoba – which is targeting the energy source for bacteria to starve them out. What differs this breakthrough from traditional antibiotics is that the team has created a drug (PEG-2S) that targets the energy supply of bacteria, which has remained vulnerable in bacteria. This approach essentially circumvents the vulnerabilities that many antibiotics have been targeting over the past 90 years.
To help us understand this new breakthrough will be Dr. Imran Haque, an internist and general practitioner based out of North Carolina. He is excited about the prospect of potentially replacing antibiotics so that medicine in the future will become more effective without a limited lifespan. Dr. Imran Haque will be relying on his extensive experience of over 15 years as a doctor to help explain why combating the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is so important for the future.
The Importance of New Non-Antibiotic Medicines
The failure to address the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria means that cost of healthcare will rise dramatically and treatment for certain illnesses will become ineffective. Less effective medicine will lead to prolonged illnesses and much more expensive medicine, as it will require much more medication to alleviate the illness. In addition, costs will pile up as illnesses will become progressively more serious and may require more often and longer hospital stays with intensive treatment. In the worst case, medication for certain diseases can become completely ineffective which will result in the rise of “superbacteria,” which will be able to rip through the human population with little resistance. This is not a new trend, but rather one that has been noted multiple times in the past. Dr. Imran Haque points out that antimicrobial resistance is a naturally occurring phenomenon, but the use and misuse of antibiotics has greatly expedited the process, and the trend will continue unless alternative means of targeting bacteria are explored.
Global Implications of More Resistant Bacteria
Dr. Imran Haque stresses that the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a worldwide problem, and it will be developing countries that will bear the brunt of the resistance. Many developing countries do not have the same sanitation level that developed countries have and often have incredibly dense populations in urban centers. In addition, the lack of resources means that the countries are less prepared to handle medical emergencies of significant scale. This creates a recipe where infectious diseases are much more common while antibiotics are less effective. Already, this phenomenon has been seen in parts of the developing world where “Superbugs” have wreaked havoc in local populations before it was finally brought under control. The good news is that this problem has been recognized at a global scale, and the World Health Organization has lead the charge with a Global Action Plan to help educate and push governments around the world to take actions that will slow the evolution of bacteria.
Traditional Antibiotic Approach to Bacteria
Antibiotics today tend to target bacteria in vulnerabilities that are shared across multiple different strains – and bacteria have been evolving over time to compensate for those vulnerabilities. In fact, many new antibiotics are not being approved because they share the same target as many existing antibiotics. The research team from University of Manitoba instead focused on neutering bacteria by slowly starving them out in their new drug, PEG-2S. To do this, they targeted the NQR pump in bacteria cells, which is an essential piece of bacteria that helps generate the energy for the cell to function and survive. Many of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria have NQR pumps, which means that the treatment will be effective for many different kinds of bacteria. Dr. Imran Haque believes that antibiotics, while effective, have limited lifespan remaining ahead of them. New, alternative ways of slowing down and killing off bacteria pave the way for the future, and he sees the potential in PEG-2S.
The Future – Antibiotic Replacements
Dr. Imran is very excited about what PEG-2S signals for the future of medicine – a potential step forward for a replacement of antibiotics, ultimately leading to more effective medicine. Antibiotic resistance is one of the largest health concerns today as bacteria are evolving faster than ever while available treatments are struggling to keep pace. PEG-2S is a step towards circumventing the evolutionary arms war by allowing medicine to target bacteria in areas that are still vulnerable. Targeting the energy supply of bacteria to starve them out may not be as efficient as killing them outright, but the fact that nearly all bacteria’s energy supplies are vulnerable means that the treatment method will be far more effective overall. Most importantly, Dr. Imran Haque is happy that PEG-2S signals a future of cheaper and more effective healthcare, and he hopes that the emergence of more replacements for antibiotics will surface over time.