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Medicine Science

Sea Sponge Extract Conquers Resistant Bacteria 132

Science News has an article on research into a compound found in a particular kind of sea sponge that seems to have the ability to restore antibiotics' effectiveness against resistant bacteria. The hope is that, since the compound is not itself deadly or even harmful to bacteria, it may skew the antibiotic-bacteria arms race in our favor. "Chemical analyses of the sponge's chemical defense factory pointed to a compound called algeferin. Biofilms, communities of bacteria notoriously resistant to antibiotics, dissolved when treated with fragments of the algeferin molecule. And new biofilms did not form. So far, the algeferin offshoot has, in the lab, successfully treated bacteria that cause whooping cough, ear infections, septicemia and food poisoning. The compound also works on... [MRSA] infections, which wreak havoc in hospitals. 'We have yet to find one that doesn't work,' says [one of the researchers]."
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Sea Sponge Extract Conquers Resistant Bacteria

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  • Re:Respect (Score:4, Interesting)

    by liquidpele ( 663430 ) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @04:56PM (#26865385) Journal
    As much as I'd like to see that, I doubt it will happen. There are too many doctors who prescribe antibiotics or everything. My wife had one prescribe one for her when she has the *flu*... I'm more worried about some jackass company patenting the compound.
  • phage medicine. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by schwillis ( 1073082 ) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @05:04PM (#26865423)
    It's funny that phage medicine has been demostrated to be very effective to treat antibiotic resistant bacteria, yet it's never been adopted in western medicine. But something comes along that works in conjunction with anti biotics and it's hot stuff. Fucking pharmasutical companys.
  • Re:phage medicine. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bertie ( 87778 ) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @05:13PM (#26865481)

    A quick scour of the web has thrown up some interesting reading on that topic. I never realised bacteriophages were used in medicine at all. Seems like the West's just forgotten about them. Thanks.

  • Re:phage medicine. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @05:25PM (#26865533)

    yet it's never been adopted in western medicine.

    Easy business model to "monetize" something out of a chemical plant... trademarks, patents, copyrights, trade secrets, all to protect the investment.

    How go you do this with "sponge juice"? I'm guessing they'd have to completely switch business models and try to run it like a fishery or fish canning factory or something?

    I would not expect the pharmaceutical industrial complex to rally around this new idea.

    It would be like if someone proved orange juice cures colds, or HFCS causes obesity, there's no way to make money out of that interesting but unprofitable knowledge.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 15, 2009 @05:26PM (#26865537)

    Aa few years ago I sat outside the entry doors to an ICU where a relative was lying. I sat there for many days, and many hours.

    I observed every single nurse stop and scrub at the scrub station which was located near the ICU entry doors. I observed maybe
    one doctor out of thirty doctors scrub at the station. Most doctors walked right through the doors and did not scrub.

    You can draw your own conclusions about this, but it seems obvious that things weren't being done in a consistent manner,
    and I've been told by some European doctor buddies that this
    sort of lax behavior in matters of sterile procedures is NOT tolerated in German hospitals.

    So, magic bullets are great, but what we really need, in the US at least, is a change in the way the medical "profession" behaves. After what I saw with my own eyes, I can't say the conduct I observed was what I'd call professional, and it will be a cold day in hell before I allow myself to be admitted as a patient in the hospital at UNC-Chapel Hill.

  • Tartar control (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hyc ( 241590 ) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @05:28PM (#26865551) Homepage Journal

    I wonder if this stuff will dissolve dental biofilms. Would be cool to finally have a simple, 100% effective treatment that totally prevents plaque, gum disease, cavities... Tho I suppose if it's that good, the ADA will bury it.

  • Re:Respect (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thermian ( 1267986 ) on Sunday February 15, 2009 @05:45PM (#26865623)

    Yeah, they probably thought the bacteria would never come up with an answer to penicillin either.

    Actually it didn't. Instead what happened was antibiotics were handed out like candy and people weren't made to complete their courses.

    If you stop taking antibiotics before the whole course is complete, any remaining bacteria are those which have some resistance (but in the beginning not enough to survive a completed course). Multiply this by the millions of people who didn't complete their courses over the decades, and you have trouble.

  • Re:Respect (Score:2, Interesting)

    by shrimppesto ( 766285 ) on Monday February 16, 2009 @12:11AM (#26868757)

    Many of those anti-bacterial products actually do not contain antibiotics. Instead, they contain compounds that are germicidal and kill everything they touch.

    The difference is critical. Antibiotics are compounds that selectively kill bacteria, causing less harm to human cells. They must therefore target some unique aspect of bacterial biology in their killing action; the specificity to which such targeting must take place is the reason why it's so easy for a bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance. "You want to bind to my protein X? Okay, I'll mutate it!" Done.

    Germicidal compounds, on the other hand, kill everything they touch by mechanisms that are not bacteria-specific. An excellent example is rubbing alcohol, which basically rips the bacteria apart. Unfortunately, it also rips YOUR cells apart, which is why you can't give it to somebody to cure their infection.

    Resistance to this latter category is not as much of a problem. It's exceedingly difficult to evolve, say, Purell resistance (active ingredient ethanol); the rare bugs that are resistant (e.g. spores) have been resistant long before Purell was around.

  • Re:Salmonella (Score:4, Interesting)

    by shrimppesto ( 766285 ) on Monday February 16, 2009 @12:19AM (#26868811)

    It's probably not quite fair to call ciprofloxacin an antibiotic of last resort, considering how widely it has been used for the past decade or so. Its side effects are indeed serious and debilitating; however, these side effects are also extraordinarily rare, which explains why ciprofloxacin has been prescribed for everything from UTIs to sinusitis without half the population rupturing their tendons.

    This is not to say that such side effects should be ignored, but rather that they should be considered in the analysis of risk vs. benefit. Owing to their rarity, it is quite often the case that the benefits far outweigh the risks.

    Overused? Yes, definitely, no doubt about it. But there are still many scenarios under which ciprofloxacin use can be justified, and many scenarios in which it is still the #1 drug of choice.

  • Re:phage medicine. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jesus_666 ( 702802 ) on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:13AM (#26871279)
    One approach is to use multi-phage mixes. Even if every kind of phage only affects a few kinds of bacteria, a broad-spectrum approach covers many. I'm not sure whether bacteria can form a resistance against phages but a phage tratment could be a first step, followed by antibiotics to kill anything the phages don't manage to get.

Think of it! With VLSI we can pack 100 ENIACs in 1 sq. cm.!