DEC 29, 2017 06:47 AM PST

Experts Call for Alternatives to Antibiotics for Small Infections

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Scientists anticipate that at the current rate of antibiotic prescriptions, bacteria will evolve to the point of making antibiotics virtually useless by the middle of the 21st century. From the Georgia Institute of Technology, scientists describe the need for new strategies to prevent this from happening.

Group A Streptococci are the most common in upper respiratory infections. Georgia Tech researchers suggest finding alternatives to broader spectrum antibiotics in order to preserve antibiotic effectiveness longer for more extreme infections. Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the NIH

What contributes to antibiotic resistance? Many different things, including doctors writing prescriptions for antibiotics for a patient’s sore throat without knowing if the infection is actually a bacterial problem, as opposed to a viral problem. Antibiotics are completely ineffective at fighting viruses.

Additionally, broad-spectrum antibiotic drugs are often prescribed to treat minor infections. This is a kind of drug that kills the both the bacteria responsible and other types of bacteria, many of which are actually playing positive roles in the human body, like protection against “bad” bacteria. The same type of broad-spectrum drugs also tend to kill the weakest population of bacteria, leaving the strongest, most-resistant leftover to multiply.

"Then later, if you have to have surgery, you have a problem,” explained Georgia Tech associate professor Sam Brown. “Or you give that resistant [bacteria] to an elderly relative."

So why are existing strategies not working to reverse the effects or to prevent further antibiotic resistance? In general, scientists are focusing on new drug development strategies in the context of severe infections instead of in small infections. The need for effective antibiotics in cases of severe infections is certainly dire, but according to the study scientists, it is the small infections that contribute most toward bacterial resistance to antibiotics in the first place.

"Antibiotic prescriptions against those smaller ailments account for about 90 percent of antibiotic use, and so are likely to be the major driver of resistance evolution," Brown explained. "It might make more sense to give antibiotics less often and preserve their effectiveness for when they're really needed. And develop alternate treatments for the small infections.”

The journey to new drug development has not been free of obstacles; in fact, the journey has been more obstacles than triumphs. Scientists have had difficulty finding effective alternatives to currently-used antibiotics. Until a solution can be found, experts from the study suggest that using antibiotics should be reserved for the most severe infections.

For minor but common bacterial infections, they suggest non-antibiotic therapies. For example, a drug could target the spread of bacteria as well as symptoms of an infection, like inflammation during strep throat. In theory, non-antibiotic drugs could hinder the infection just enough to let the immune system take over a kill the infection on its own.

The present study was published in the journal PLOS Biology.

Source: Georgia Institute of Technology

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 04, 2018
Videos
JUL 04, 2018
How Did Viruses Originate?
There is still a debate about whether or not viruses are a form of life, and we really don't know where they came from....
JUL 07, 2018
Microbiology
JUL 07, 2018
A New Target for an Effective Gonorrhea Treatment
Many pathogens are becoming antibiotic resistant; the microbe that causes the STD gonorrhea is no different....
SEP 22, 2018
Videos
SEP 22, 2018
Did a Vampire Facial Expose Patients to Bloodborne Disease?
It seems there is no shortage of unusual beauty rituals; vampire facials may fall into that category....
SEP 26, 2018
Immunology
SEP 26, 2018
What Superbug? A New Antibiotic Contender
Scientists from a biotechnology corporation, Genentech, have altered a protein that blocks a signaling pathway in gram-negative bacteria to engineer a new antibiotic, currently called G0775,...
SEP 27, 2018
Microbiology
SEP 27, 2018
How Bacterial Cells Take out the Trash
Some types of bacteria create tiny versions of themselves that cannot reproduce - miniature spheres lacking chromosomal DNA that are known as minicells....
OCT 05, 2018
Microbiology
OCT 05, 2018
Reducing Pollution with Engineered Bacteria
A varsity of creative strategies have been proposed as solutions to climate change, from practical to outlandish....
Loading Comments...