New Drug Could Help Fight Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

It's showing very promising results.

Unless you've not been paying attention to the news for the last 10 years, it's pretty well known that stopping and starting antibiotics increases the risk of becoming resistant to them. But for some reason people still haven't gotten the message.

In the last decade alone, the overuse and misuse of antibiotics has never been so been so great, with global use of antibiotics increasing by a whopping 40 percent, resulting in a number of difficult to treat "superbugs".

The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance also found that 700,000 people die each year as a result of antibiotic-resistant infections -- and this number is expected to increase to 10 million by the year 2050.

Thankfully, scientists are working hard to stop this from happening, and their latest efforts -- a drug that uses your immune system to fight bacteria -- could potentially put an end to antibiotic resistance.

According to The Guardian, scientists at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania have created a new type of antibiotic, dubbed the "immunobiotic", that essentially hunts down and destroys antibiotic resistant germs by boosting your body's natural defences

Researchers of the study, which was published in the journal Cell Chemical Biology, found that the immunobiotic is effective at treating a wide range of difficult to treat germs -- some of which become resistant to many last-resort antibiotics.

Lead author of the study, Marcos Pires, said the inspiration for the drug came from the recent success of cancer therapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to destroy cancer cells rather than bacteria.

The researchers tested the drug on a number of difficult to treat germs declared by the World Health Organisation as a high-priority because so few drugs work against them -- and lo and behold, it successfully wiped out the bacteria.

So how does it work?

Well, put simply, the drug seeks out harmful bacteria and sticks to it, causing direct damage. At the same time, it acts like a beacon of sorts for the germ-fighting antibodies that come to finish the job as part of the immune response.

While the drug has yet to be tested in humans, initial studies showed no signs of toxicity. And when used in combination a previously resistant antibiotic, the researchers found that the new drug made the germs more susceptible to the effects of said resistant antibiotic.

It may be some time before we see the drug hitting our stores, but as Pires explained, a commercially manufactured product could potentially be a serious "game-changer" when it comes to ending antibiotic resistance.

“We anticipate the resistance would be slower to develop because of the double mode of activity -- both traditional antimicrobial activity and the immunotherapy,” Pires said.

Feature image: Getty.