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Biotech Science

Potential Cure For Antibiotic Resistant Infections 127

kpw10 writes to let us know about research to be published this week that offers hope in the battle against multi-drug-resistant bacteria. "Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have discovered that two drugs used to treat bone loss in old folks can both kill and short-circuit the 'sex life' of antibiotic-resistant bacteria blamed for nearly 100,000 hospital deaths across the country each year."
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Potential Cure For Antibiotic Resistant Infections

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  • by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @06:18PM (#19819085) Homepage
    You didn't read the whole article. The drugs were initially tested for the property of blocking the transfer of genes for multiple drug resistance. But they were surprised to find that it specifically killed those bacteria which had already received the upgrade package. Multiple drug resistance is evidently a specific trick - not multiple resistances to multiple drugs, but a single resistance mechanism that blocks nearly all drugs, and that can be passed from one species of bacteria to others. These newly-tested but available drugs kill any bacteria which have adopted that mechanism.
  • Bacteria != viruses (Score:5, Informative)

    by mattcasters ( 67972 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @07:00PM (#19819531) Homepage
    Just a nitpick, but anti-biotics don't really help fight against viruses.

  • by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @08:43PM (#19820351)
    ...but until you've had an opportunity to get up close and personal with CA-MRSA, you DO NOT know how much fun you are missing.

    Starts out like an ingrown hair or pimple. Might even be a spider bite. Then it gets angry. Take a large marble...light it on fire and have it surgically planted underneath, say, two layers of skin. Day three and the redness is now inches in diameter and the bump is still growing and...damn! It hurts! Burns like hell! Pimple my ass! Get that thing out of there! You can't sleep from the pain and you find yourself wondering which would be the better method to dig it out: kitchen cutlery or claw-hammer. In any case, if you don't have a doctor lance it, you're going to have to do it yourself.

    Day four and it is open, draining and talk about cheese!! The stuff draining from the now open wound is so toxic, it blisters the surrounding skin. Makes it a bit difficult to remember to trash your clothes, bedsheets, etc., but at least the burning has lessened...a bit.

    Ten or twelve days later, after finally getting on an anti-biotic (tetracycline?) that can put up a fight, the fluid draining out is almost stopped, the redness is almost gone and a bit of scar tissue is starting to form. Good news is, now that you know the routine, you can put up a slightly better fight next time - and there will be a next time...unless you died from this incident, of course. You did wash your hands before you helped your kids get dressed this morning, right...?
  • by Telcontar ( 819 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @09:30PM (#19820685) Homepage
    They help indirectly: In cases of a viral infection, antibiotics are prescribed to wipe out bacteria that keep the immune system tied up and busy. While those bacteria were not strong enough to make you sick, antibiotics are a defense on that front, allowing your immune system to focus on viruses.

    Of course, antibiotics also kill useful bacteria (e.g. those that help you to digest milk and salad), so antibiotics are not really a good idea against a common cold.
  • by reverseengineer ( 580922 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @10:05PM (#19820947)
    Actually, it would be unwise to prescribe these drugs recklessly for another reason- the bisphosphonates, the class of compounds which these two drugs belong to, can have a rather serious side effect when taken in high doses for long periods. Bisphosphonates taken in high doses for long periods can cause osteonecrosis of the jaw, though it should be noted that etidronate and clodronate are older drugs with far less potency than newer drugs in the class like alendronate and zoledronic acid.
  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @10:08PM (#19820971) Homepage

    In cases of a viral infection, antibiotics are prescribed to wipe out bacteria that keep the immune system tied up and busy.

    Huh? That's not even wrong. There is no reason to use antibiotics in a viral infection. Period. Now, there are a couple of real life caveats to this: Firstly, viral infections can alter host defenses (usually by trashing the lining of the respiratory system - essentially making holes in it - which allow bacteria to invade. The classic case is Haemophilus Influenza pneumonia that occurs after an influenza infection. Secondly and more commonly, a doctor may not know if the infection is viral or bacterial and antibiotics are often (likely too often) added empirically.

    But bacteria "don't keep the immune system busy".

  • by The Elephant ( 1095025 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @10:29PM (#19821073)
    This article provides a more thorough and scientific explanation. 9171636.htm []
  • by reverseengineer ( 580922 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2007 @11:14PM (#19821367)
    That's not necessarily true- there are quite a few ways bacteria have become resistant to drugs- because there are quite a few different drug targets scientists have tried.

    Before even penicillin, there were the miraculous sulfa drugs, which block a bacteria's ability to make folic acid: bacteria learned to uptake folate just as we do.

    Beta-lactams like penicillin prevent bacteria from making peptidoglycan, the material of their cell walls: bacteria came up with beta-lactamase to break it down.

    Better beta-lactams like oxacillin and methicillin were developed to be more effective at killing bacteria before lactamase neutralized them: mutant forms of proteins involved in making peptidoglycan (and were resistant to binding lactam drugs) began to proliferate, and now we of course have Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus to deal with. (And studies have shown that MRSA bacteremia is just as deadly as regular SA, even correcting for the fact that MRSA tends to hit hospital patients. The rise in community-associated MRSA suggests it can fend for itself in the wild as well.)

    Quinolones attack bacterial topoisomerases, the enzymes they use to wind and unwind DNA: mutant topoisomerases beat these.

    Macrolides (most of the -mycin family) and oxazolidones bind to bacterial ribosomes to stop protein translation: modified ribosomal subunits beat these.

    Vancomycin prevents peptidoglycan formation in by preventing incorporation of the monomers that make it up: modified monomers, and now we see VRSA.

    We keep finding new targets for antibiotics, but as the Red Queen said, "It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place."

  • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @11:13AM (#19825507) Journal
    I haven't read the article because for some reason our corporate firewall doesn't like it (but it's cool with slashdot: ??!?)

    Anyway, I know there are multiple paths for drug resistance.
    Generally speaking, antibiotics target a specific enzyme or pathway. Take penicillin: it inhibits an enzyme used in linking sugars used in building the cell wall. To evade this, some bacteria make beta-lactamases, enzymes that specifically attack and break down penicillin, while other bacteria just massively overproduce the enzyme that the penicillin targets, so that even under high penicillin dosages, there is enough enzyme activity left that the bacterium can build strong cell walls. Those are completely different forms of resistance, and one drug is unlikely to manage to stop both (unless it just kills the cell, which will of course stop both mechanisms, but that's not what we're talking about.)
    If you're interested, here's an interesting article [] that discussses a bunch of issues related to developing antibiotic-resistance, including quick takes on how it's not really related to massive widespread antibiotic use, to length of time using the antibiotic, and some other widely-held misunderstandings.

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