In September 2016, the United Nations made a special declaration pledging to fight the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, colloquially known as superbugs.
About 2 million people catch one of these superbugs each year, and now there are even strains immune to nearly everything we can throw at them. A woman in Nevada recently died of a strain that resisted 26 different antibiotics.
<p>“We’ve lost the ability to use many of our mainstream antibiotics,” said Oregon State University <a href="http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2017/jan/molecule-shows-ability-thwart-pathogens%E2%80%99-genetic-resistance-antibiotic" target="_blank">professor Bruce Geller</a>. “Everything’s resistant to them now. That’s left us to try to develop new drugs to stay one step ahead of the bacteria."</p><p>But now Geller and a group of scientists have <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jac/article/doi/10.1093/jac/dkw476/2691388/Peptide-conjugated-phosphorodiamidate-morpholino" target="_blank">found an interesting twist</a>. Instead of finding a new antibiotic, they found a way to make known medicines work again, thanks to a type of compound called PPMO.</p><h2>If the fight against antibiotic resistance is a gritty war story, this new approach is like a spy novel.</h2><p>Fighting against drug-resistant bacteria is an arms race. We make new weapons. They develop new shields against those weapons. </p><p>One defense that certain bacteria have is an enzyme known as NDM-1. It's good against a class of antibiotic known as carbapenems. Previously, what we could do to fight NDM-1 is either abandon carbapenems or try to add extra drugs to slow down NDM-1. But Geller's PPMO does something different. </p><p><strong>Instead of going after NDM-1 itself, it attacks the messenger RNA that transmits NDM-1's blueprints. </strong>It kidnaps the messenger. No messenger means no NDM-1; no NDM-1 means our good-guy antibiotics are back in the fight.</p><h2>Geller says it'll probably be about three years before human testing of PPMO.</h2><div><div class="push-wrapper--mobile" data-card="image" data-reactroot=""><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTUyNTQ5MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjU2OTc1NX0.QsiQmLZak5WIM7PkfJi-5DtNwLo96-dOutgVj0eszNM/img.jpg?width=980" id="712f2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2279d53a0b7136cbc8f65b062b1426cf" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image"><div class="image-caption"><p>Professor Geller. Image from <a href="http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2017/jan/molecule-shows-ability-thwart-pathogens%E2%80%99-genetic-resistance-antibiotic">Oregon State University</a>.</p></div></div></div><p>So far, scientists have tested their work both on a petri dish and by giving sick mice the PPMO/antibiotic combo. It worked. They then even tried three different kinds of NDM-1 bacteria; it worked on all of them.</p><p>“It’s the same gene in different types of bacteria, so you only have to have one PPMO that’s effective for all of them," said Geller. </p><p>That said, creating new drugs is expensive and complicated. It's possible that this won't work for humans. The PPMO should be safe, since humans and other animals don't have NDM-1, but other things like side effects could come up. But even if it doesn't work, this approach opens up whole new avenues for research.</p><p><strong>Through innovations like this, we can help push antibiotic resistance back and win the fight.</strong></p>
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