We have been warned about the overuse of antibiotics for decades. Several public health campaigns have sought to highlight the problem of patients pressuring GPs to prescribe antibiotics and our general overuse of them in the medical profession. Some infections and bacteria based illnesses are becoming immune to antibiotics and it is proving a problem to our general health. Now, in the war against disease and illness, researchers have discovered a potential new antibiotic – and it is literally right under our noses.
Antibiotic from Our Nasal Passage?
Studying a number of samples of bacteria from patients nostrils, it seems that one in ten of us has a type that could be synthesised into the next generation of antibiotics. Researchers from University of Tubingen in Germany now believe that we have seen a fundamental shift away from looking for new drugs in nature and turning back to the human body’s ability to heal itself.
Our present range of antibiotics have come from bacteria in the soil but an ongoing study since the 1980s has shown the human body to be a wealth of new medical data. One of the bacteria types has come from the inner lining of our noses. Not everybody has this bacteria, but the research has opened up more possibilities for the future.
Our bodies are riddled with bacteria. Our negative reaction to the word “bacteria” is misleading though, and probably media driven. However, it is bacteria – in our guts, airways and orifices, that are keeping us from catching more serious diseases more often. Body bacteria is effectively waging a war against invasive bacteria and keeping us healthy.
Sniffing Out a New Treatment
Researchers in the medical profession have understood for years the problems with resistance. The rise of superbugs such as MRSA has accelerated the need for a next generation of antibiotics. One has been found in the bodies of around 10% of the population. It is a bacteria called Staphylococcus lugdunensis and seems to have remarkable abilities to fight off superbugs such as Staphylococcus aureus. Competing for the same resources in the same part of the body, and Staphylococcus lugdunensis seems to be winning the fight in those people whose bodies contain it.
The long-term research into the genetic code of Staphylococcus lugdunensis has been undertaken to understand precisely which gene(s) is the key factor in fighting off antibiotic resistant bacteria. Now, the researchers claim to have found the key gene. They will put the drug to market as lugdunin, named in honour of the bacteria. However, due to tests it is unlikely to come to market for another ten years.
More Testing to Come
Tasting on laboratory mice has gone well so far. Some of the mice had no signs of MRSA or Enterococcus whereas others demonstrated reduced severity. What’s more, it appears to have penetrated the outer layers of the skin and into the soft tissue, eliminating instances of the so-called superbugs in many cases. The researchers have urged caution though. It could be many years before it is tested on human subjects. What is successful in simulations and in laboratory testing does not necessarily mean that it will be successful in human trial patients.
What is had done though, is demonstrated that the human body is a wealth of information that we can tap into to develop the drugs of the future. Previously, we have looked at plants, soil bacteria and viruses for our antibiotics to fill a genetic gap that we humans lack. This could change everything and future research could see experiments looking at the gut flora and other bacteria that keep us alive to fighting the new wave of antibiotic resistant drugs.