MRSA isn't usually a problem for kids, but it will exit your Auntie Flo in a box when she goes into hospital for a hip-replacement. I've had a lot to say about MRSA [bloboprevs] before. Not least because we could have been contenders in the search for novel therapeutics against this strain of Staphylococcus aureus. One of the anti-microbial peptides that we discovered lurking in the chicken genome, turned out to be quite good at killing MRSA and a little bit better at that task when we tricked about with the peptide sequence. If only MRSA was the only species that was resistant to almost all the antibiotics, but hospitals particularly are also held hostage by Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae or CRE. As if a blizzard of acronyms - all including R-for-Resistant - is insufficiently confusing /worrying, the meta-acronyms ESKAPE identifies the causes of most concern - S for Staphylococcus aureus etc.
In the bizarre market-driven world of Big Pharma, there is little incentive to develop novel antibiotics. The big players see more $$$s for shareholders by focussing on chronic disease which will keep on demanding therapeutic supply for decades. To keep people ticking along feeling crap is better for business than infectious diseases where the patient is either cured in a week or dies - neither outcome being a cash cow that keeps on giving. Any work being done with antibiotics by Big Pharma is most likely to be tinkering about with chemical structure of known bacteria-killers to produce a Me Too variant that can be patented because it is technically different but is so similar to existing antibiotics that resistance can be expected even sooner than average. The microbe collective has the number of whole classes of antibiotics. Another issue is that newer antibiotics are edging over the line in the balance between safe and effective. They kill the invasive bacteria, yes; but they also do damage to human cells and systems. Even to the extent that we cured the infection but the patient died. What we need, what sick kids need, what the medical front-liners need is some wholly new, now for something completely different, antibiotics that will win a few years of effectiveness (and safety!) rather than a few months.
Thankfully some academic scientists hanker after being the next Alexander Fleming (and thereby having a shot at a Nobel Prize in 10 or 15 years time. A number of creative scientists have had a punt in the direction:
- Kim Lewis and Slava Epstein invented a gizmo for isolating single killer-bacteria from a soup of soil and isolated a potent bacteriocide from a totally new species they called Eleftheria terrae.
- Paul Dyson and Dusica Vujaklij's key insight was to read the medieval medical literature to isolate an ESKAPE killing Streptomyces from an Irish churchyard
1) kills a wide range of bacteria
2) does little damage to mammalian cells
3) seems to stave off the development of bacterial resistance to attack
They will be looking for venture capital to take their hope-for-the-future up the regulatory chain towards a marketable and life-saving addition to the medical war-chest.