Is Dirt the Answer to Fighting Superbugs?

19th January 2015

A new antibiotic drug that British experts have called a ‘game changer’ is said to have been discovered.

Teixobactin, a new antibiotic formulated to fight superbugs such as MRSA has used an innovative technique by growing bacteria in the place where it grows best – the soil. The research team placed diluted soil samples including the bugs in dishes in between semi permeable membranes and buried them in the earth.

This new drug currently shows no signs of inducing drug resistance due to it targeting fatty molecules in the cell wall instead of the proteins.

The future of antibiotics was seen to be in jeopardy before the discovery of Teixobactin as patients are growing increasingly resistant to antibiotics as prescriptions for this particular family of drugs is on the increase. Antibiotics have long been seen as the backbone of modern medicine and have been the best form of defence against bacterial infections for over 80 years. We are now in danger of developing infections that can no longer be treated by antibiotics due to our prolonged exposure to them.

A survey carried out in conjunction with the announcement of the Longitude Prize – a scientific challenge set to solve the problem of antibiotic resistance – found that an astounding 90% of GPs surveyed have felt under pressure to prescribe antibiotics based on the patients symptoms. This can lead to misdiagnosis and prolonged health problems further down the line.

Furthermore, 70% of GPs admitted to prescribing antibiotics when they were unsure whether they were treating a bacterial or viral infection. In this survey, they also found GPs feel that they do not have enough time to deal with persistent patients and have admitted to prescribing antibiotics to prevent complaints.

With the survey also encompassing patient opinion, they found that 78% of patients place their trust wholly in their GPs to treat their health problems effectively, which highlights health professional’s greatest responsibility to their patients – duty of care.

Commenting on Teixobactin, Professor Neil Woodward, Head of Public Health England’s Antimicrobial Resistance and Health Care Association Infections Reference Unit, said “The rise in antibiotic resistance is a threat to modern healthcare as we know it so this discovery could potentially help to bridge the ever increasing gap between infections and the medicines we have available to treat them.”

So could this new drug be the ‘game changer’ for the medical profession? Could it be possible that the discovery of this new drug may change the way antibiotics are used in the future?

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