Cure of the Superbug
We have all heard of “Superbugs” – those awful, contagious infections that are difficult to treat or prevent from being passed on to other people. Now scientists have found what could be the “Superhero” of medicine!
The Scripps Institution of Oceanography has extracted a compound from a microorganism off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. This amazing discovery can help development of a cure and defense against antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections – they have called this wondrous compound “Anthracimycin” and it has the ability to kill Anthrax outright. It may also be able to treat MRSA.
The newly discovered compound is considered “naturally-antibiotic”, which means that it already displays antibiotic properties before being changed into a drug. An antibiotic is medicine that stops the growth of harmful bacteria, or destroys them completely – Penicillin probably being the most famous antibiotic.
Unfortunately, as some bacterial infections are resistant to antibiotics, doctors often have to cut the infections out. One example of an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus which we know as MRSA.
About 1 in 100 people carry the MRSA bacteria, but many of these people have it in their nose and don’t show any symptoms, or know they have it. MRSA is so contagious that you can catch it from as little as a touch from an infected person, but symptoms only occur when infection gets into the body. Symptoms vary depending on which part of the body has been infected, but most often only causes mild infections on the skin like pimples or boils. MRSA can become life-threatening by infecting wounds and the lungs, even cause blood poisoning.
Another example of an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection is Anthrax. Anthrax gained notoriety in 2001 when some its spores were put in letters and posted in the US – twenty-two people were infected, five of whom sadly died. Anthrax is typically less antibiotic-resistant than MRSA and therefore easier to treat, but due to the attacks it is considered a potential biological weapon.
Cattle and sheep are usually the only animals affected by Anthrax, but it can be transmitted to any warm-bodied animal. In humans, Anthrax can cause skin and lung infections like pneumonia. About 100 people a year get infected, and only untreated cases result in fatality.
Anthracimycin has been discovered so recently that the Scripps Institution doesn’t yet know how effective it will be on people, but they have been carrying out initial tests in laboratories and the results have gotten a lot of people very excited.
The tests have shown the new compound could be 25 to 40 times more effective than current antibiotics at completely destroying Anthrax and other bacterial infections. It has also cured 85 per cent of mice infected with MRSA!
Research leader Professor William Fenical says, “The discovery of truly new antibiotic compounds is quite rare.” He goes on to say that many drugs could be developed from this one compound, “It’s not just one discovery. It opens up the opportunity to develop analogues – potentially hundreds.”
Given how much of our oceans are yet to be explored, consider the possibility of all the other potential life-savers, like Anthracimycin, just waiting for us to uncover them.