If we can no longer kill bacteria using traditional antibiotics then what can we do? Due to the increasing ineffectiveness of antibiotics researchers have been asking themselves this very question and the new treatments they have proposed are fascinating. Lets take a look:
- Predatory Bacteria
Fight fire with fire, is what this strategy suggests.
Some bacteria, such as Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus, like to prey on their fellow microbes using them as a food source and a place to multiply. In the pictures above we can see Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus, the smaller one with the tail, attacking its prey in its trademark manner by embedding itself between the inner and outer cell membranes, once inside it grows filaments which seal it inside where it then grows and multiplies. This treatment would involve purposefully subjecting the patient suffering the bacteri infection to the Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus bacteria which would then destroy the bacteria causing the infection. Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus would become a living antibiotic.
2. Bacteriophage Therapy
Continuing the microbes-attacking-microbes trend; Bacteriophages are viruses that attack bacteria. Specific ‘phages’ attack specific bacteria making them much more specific than antibiotics which kill all bacteria indiscriminately (even the good ‘normal flora’ inside us). Bacteriophages have been used clinically since the 1920s, although predominately in soviet countries, it is only now that antibiotic resistance is increasing in the West that bacteriophage therapy is being considered and researched.
Peptides are small proteins produced by the immune systems of plants, animals and fungi. Peptides due to their small nature are able to infiltrate into the bacterium cell where they interrupt or interfere key cellular processes such as DNA or RNA synthesis, cell wall synthesis and protein folding. By interrupting these functions the peptides can either kill the bacteria or prevent them from causing harm.
Metals have been used as antibacterials since the fourth century in Greece and Persia. Metals such as copper and silver release ions which attach to the proteins within DNA interrupting its synthesis and function preventing the bacteria from creating new proteins, resulting in death. The problem with using metals as antibacterials is due to their toxicity to humans in larger doses.
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