New Technique for Analyzing the Epigenetics of Bacteria, a Potential New Tool to Combat Pathogens and Overcome Antibiotic Resistance

Scientists from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have developed a new technique to more precisely analyze bacterial populations, to reveal epigenetic mechanisms that can drive virulence.   The new methods hold the promise of a potent new tool to offset the growing challenge of antibiotic resistance by bacterial pathogens. The research was published today in the journal Nature Communications, and conducted in collaboration with New York University Langone Medical Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospital of Harvard Medical School.

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This year's Longitude Prize is focused on the growing problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria. They’ve put together a nice image, shown here, which showcases what they term ‘the ten most dangerous antibiotic resistant bacteria’. You can read more detail on each of them here:

The prize offers a £10 million prize fund for the development of a cheap, accurate, and easy to use bacterial infection test kit, which will allow doctors to prescribe the correct antibiotics at the correct time for patients, to try to help minimise the development of antibiotic resistance.

First new antibiotic in 30 years discovered in major breakthrough

The first new antibiotic to be discovered in nearly 30 years has been hailed as a ‘paradigm shift’ in the fight against the growing resistance to drugs.

Teixobactin has been found to treat many common bacterial infections such as tuberculosis, septicaemia and C. diff, and could be available within five years.

But more importantly it could pave the way for a new generation of antibiotics because of the way it was discovered.

Scientists have always believed that the soil was teeming with new and potent antibiotics because bacteria have developed novel ways to fight off other microbes.

But 99 per cent of microbes will not grow in laboratory conditions leaving researchers frustrated that they could not get to the life-saving natural drugs.

Now a team from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, have discovered a way of using an electronic chip to grow the microbes in the soil and then isolate their antibiotic chemical compounds.

They discovered that one compound, Teixobactin, is highly effective against common bacterial infections Clostridium difficile, Mycobacterium tuberculous and Staphylococcus aureus.

Professor Kim Lewis, Director of the Antimicrobial Discovery Centre said: “Apart from the immediate implementation, there is also I think a paradigm shift in our minds because we have been operating on the basis that resistance development is inevitable and that we have to focus on introducing drugs faster than resistance

“Teixobactin shows how we can adopt an alternative strategy and develop compounds to which bacteria are not resistant.”


This GIF shows the scary rise in antibiotic resistance.   

We’ve been popping Z-Paks like sugar pills, and now we’re paying the price: bacteria are the hunters, we are the hunted. Bacteria evolve just like we do, and overprescribing antibiotics (especially for minor bugs like the seasonal flu) can make them less effective. Recently, there’s been a huge rise in antibiotic resistance, and unless we take some serious steps to change the way we use antibiotics, we could have a serious problem.

Learn how we can prevent the coming antibiotic crisis>>

Maple syrup could help fight bacterial infections, Canadian scientists find

Maple syrup is once again making headlines for being the rockstar condiment that every Canadian knows it is, but it’s not the culinary world that’s buzzing this time — it’s the medical world.

Newly released research from McGill University in Montreal suggests that concentrated maple syrup extract may actually help fight bacterial infections, potentially reducing the need for antibiotics around the world.

“Combining maple syrup extract with common antibiotics could increase the microbes’ susceptibility, leading to lower antibiotic usage,” reads a press release issued by the university Friday. “Overuse of antibiotics fuels the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria, which has become a major public-health concern worldwide.”

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Can antibiotics affect my birth control?

Someone asked us…

“Hi there! So I was recently prescribed amoxicillin (for post-wisdom teeth surgery) and I’ve heard that (some? all?) antibiotics can lower the effectiveness of birth control pills. Is this true? If so, how long should I be wary of these adverse effects? Thanks so much, you guys are always so helpful!”

SO many people have this question.

Fortunately, there’s only one type of antibiotic that can mess with your birth control: Rifampin (usually used to treat tuberculosis). So anyone taking Rifampin should ask their doctor and/or pharmacist if it will interact with their birth control method, and use condoms as a backup, just in case.

Amoxicillin doesn’t lower the effectiveness of birth control pills, so no worries there. There are a few other medications that can have an effect on the pill:

  • the antifungal griseofulvin (other antifungals do not make the pill less effective)
  • certain HIV medicines
  • certain anti-seizure medicines
  • St. John’s wort

If you’re taking medication and are worried it will interact with your birth control, you can always double check with your nurse or doctor and use condoms as back up until you have your answer. And remember: the pill doesn’t protect against STDs, so condoms are always a good idea.

-Kellie at Planned Parenthood

28 April 2015

Killing Resistance

Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium commonly found in people’s noses and on their skin. Usually living harmlessly with us (commensal), this organism can cause infections if it enters the body by a cut in the skin, and has rapidly developed resistance to antibiotics. The development of antibacterial enzymes could be an alternative approach to targeting antibiotic-resistant S. aureus. Studies have looked into cloning S. aureus’ own enzymes – autolysins – used in building the cell wall, and genetically engineering them to kill S. aureus. Another option are human lysozymes – antibacterial proteins that protects us from invading microorganisms. Some bacteria (black clusters in cells pictured) safeguard themselves by releasing proteins that bind to lysozymes, inactivating them. By redesigning lysozymes to deceive these proteins, lysozymes can target and kill (stained fluorescent yellow/orange) bacterial pathogens. These new, hopeful antibacterial drug possibilities pave the way for more therapeutic and effective strategies to tackle bacterial resistance.

Written by Katie Panteli

Image by Karl E. Griswold and colleagues
Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, USA
Copyright held by ACS Publications
Research published in ACS Chemical Biology, January 2015

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There are several aspects to the problem of antibiotic resistance. It’s very important to have highly specific targets, which kill the particular bacterium that’s causing the disease rather than using a spectrum of antibiotics that should only be used as a last resort when you don’t know what the disease is caused by and you don’t have time.
But there’s a larger problem—the problem of resistance is also due to an abuse of antibiotics.
Many people will go to a doctor and demand an antibiotic when they have a cold or a flu, for which these antibacterial compounds are useless. In many countries it is possible to buy antibiotics over the counter. Often, if people are poor, they will not take the full dose. In addition to also prescribing antibiotics for the flu the West uses antibiotics in feed to fatten up the cattle. That’s an abuse of antibiotics. This leads to the spread of resistant strains, rendering current antibiotics useless if resistance spreads too much.
In countries like India people will give you antibiotics prophylactically, as a way to prevent infection. This should only be done in very extreme cases because it’s again spreading resistance.
People now move all over the world, so if resistance emerges in one place it can very quickly spread to other places. So it needs a concerted attack… It is a broad social problem.