The World Health Organization has recently released a report on the global incidence of antibiotic resistance in pathogens (summary). Antibiotic resistance is on the rise globally. This is a call to action for reporting from individual nations so that we understand what we are dealing with as well as a warning to us all: We are looking at a post-antibiotic era where infections that arise from simple injuries could be resistant to our antibiotics and therefore life threatening to any one of us.
Part of the issue and something that needs attention is the issue of “Peak Antibiotics”. Early on, we found many new antibiotics and we stock piled these cure-alls rapidly. Since 1990 we have not found any new major types of antibiotics. By overusing a set of now common antibiotics we have given the bacteria lots of opportunities to adapt, evolve and share the natural capacities for resistance that exist in nature. More than that, by continuing to expose bacteria to low levels of antibiotics we have increased the selection pressure for resistance to the drugs that we have. In a way, we are all responsible. Be sure not to ask for antibiotics you don’t need. Physicians need to resist prescribing antibiotics that are not necessary. Agriculture and government need to accept their involvement as well: invest in research and take action to prevent unnecessary antibiotic use.
7 bacteria of concern & their resistance frequencies in New Zealand, compared to the world:
Of course, on RadioLive when James asked what we can do to fight antibiotic resistant bacteria, I mentioned bacteriophage therapy.
To me, it sounds like something out of a science fiction movie or a vampire thriller, a team from Stanford released a paper this week in Nature Medicine that the blood of young mice effects the brain of an older mouse in ways that reverse some of the effects of aging. This was seen in the behavior of these older mice, improving their learning and memory. They were able to pinpoint some of the specific gene expression patterns that changed in the hippocampus of these mice as well. The hippocampi are a pair of small regions in the brain that are responsible for translating short-term memories into long-term memories. It also plays a role in spatial memory and navigation. In order to do this, the researchers actually tied the blood flow of mice of the same age together or mice of different ages. The approach is called parabiotic (para = beside, biotic = life) and while I had never heard of it before, this experimental approach has been implemented in animal research since at least the 1980s. There is a nice post about parabionts here.
It’s a “para-mice”! Oh, never mind. (image from http://www.denigma.de/data/entry/open-distributed-science-for-aging-research)
This work followed on from a 2011 Nature paper where these authors announced that simply transfusing blood from young mice to old mice was sufficient to reverse the effects of aging on the generation of new neurons in the brain. We all know that blood contains red and white blood cells, but when these are removed the golden substance that remains, the blood plasma, has as many as 700 specific factors in it including a suite of clotting factors, and a forest of other small proteins. The function of many of these is unknown. In this 2011 study, a few small peptides were implicated in this miraculous regeneration but the effects on the mice were limited to behavioral evidence of improved memory.
The researchers involved have started a company and are looking forward to starting clinical trials for human treatment.
Find more information in the press release at science daily headlines:
For more information about the WHO report see the summary and SMC: