New Drug May Cure Antibiotic Resistant Infections

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March 9, 2015 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

If you’ve been following the news stories about antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” you’re right to be worried. I’m worried, too.

The superbugs are killer bacteria—pneumonia, tuberculosis, venereal disease, staph infections, and more. They were once all but eliminated by antibiotics, but the “bugs” have become increasingly immune to them.

Millions of lives are at stake, here in the US and around the world.

But there’s a bright new ray of hope.

After countless brave but fruitless attempts to alter current antibiotics to defeat these superbugs, there’s a new class of antibiotics—Teixobactin—that promises to stop them in their tracks.

It’s the first new antibiotic class in decades.

Hello, Teixobactin and Eleftheria Terrae

Eleftheria terrae is a bacterium within the Teixobactinclass. This newly discovered antibiotic occurs naturally in soil, as the name Terrae suggests.

To date, Eleftheria terrae has been tested only on mice. But if the same promising results are replicated in human trials, it can be a monumental, lifesaving game-changer. Eleftheria terrae quickly took out not only the big-name superbugs, like pneumonia, tuberculosis and staph. It also neutralized dozens of other bacterial threats across a range of diseases.

Just as important, Eleftheria terrae appear to deprive pathogenic bacteria of their most potent survival tool: the ability to mutate into other, equally lethal, antibiotic-resistant strains.

Why a New Antibiotic is Desperately Needed

The data warn us that a “post-antibiotic era,” is fast approaching. That’s when no current antibiotic is effective in controlling killer bacterial infections. For a host of reasons, the superbugs that cause them simply brush off the antibiotics that used to neutralize them.

The superbug news stories often tell us things like In the post-antibiotic era, you can die from an infected paper cut. That’s unlikely, but not dismissible. And it’s a good reminder of life before antibiotics—pre-1930s.

In those days, a Streptococcus (strep) bug caused half of all post-birth deaths and was a major cause of death from burns. A Staphylococcus (staph) bug was fatal in 80 percent of infected wounds. A diagnosis of tuberculosis or pneumonia was often a death sentence.

Those long-gone days threaten to reappear.

The World Health Organization calls antibiotic resistance “an increasingly serious threat to global public health,” warning that “The world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries, which have been treatable for decades, can once again kill.”

Every year, at least 2 million Americans become infected with a superbug. At least 23,000 of them die.

Indeed, “superbugs” are now believed to kill over 700,000 people worldwide per year. A recent British government-commissioned study concluded that infections caused by superbugs could kill over 10 million people annually by 2050.

Crashing Protective and Preventive Medicine … and the Food Chain

As disastrous as that would be all by itself, the stakes are actually far higher than they may initially seem. Without effective antibiotics all of these procedures and interventions become impossible, or impossibly risky:

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  • All surgeries, including critical organ transplants
  • Cancer treatments
  • Dialysis
  • Tooth extractions or replacements
  • Childbirth
  • Treatment of burns, breaks and wounds

Any treatment or procedure that breaks the skin could put a patient at risk.

Because they all rely on antibiotics to defend vulnerable post-procedure patients against infections.

But there’s more.

If antibiotics fail, much of our modern food chain collapses, and with it, entire economies. I’m sure you know that our industrialized meat, fish, seafood poultry, dairy and agri-products are fed antibiotics. This protects them against unsanitary conditions, pests, and diseases.

It also results in billions of bacteria and antibiotics being flushed from farms and factories into our rivers and our entire ecosystem (including our city water systems). Many of these bugs are able to pass along their resistant traits to each other.

And when these antibiotics and resistant bacteria find their way into our own bodies, there can be hell to pay.

Thankfully, there’s vigorous and growing pushback against antibiotic-and chemical-laced food production in favor of eating fresh, local, organic, antibiotic- and hormone-free practices.

And thanks to Eleftheria terrae, there’s now hope for life-saving breakthroughs. I’ll keep you posted as promising new studies continue to emerge.

Meanwhile, here’s my take on antibiotics—some dos and don’ts that can help keep the superbug evolution at bay.

How to Practice “Safe Antibiotics”

Thankfully, not every bug is a superbug. There are still many antibiotics that pack the necessary punch. I find them very useful for treating specific bacterial infections that respond better to drugs than to symptom management.

Bacterial pneumonia, for example, should be treated with antibiotics, but a runny nose will usually clear up in a week as long as you get enough sleep and drink plenty of water.

It’s also important to note that most colds are caused by a virus. Antibiotics are useless against viruses.

When you use antibiotics to treat comparatively minor ailments, like a sinus or urinary tract infection, you don’t really help with the infection. You also make it easier for serious diseases, like staph, to learn how to defeat an antibiotic and turn into a deadly new strain of pathogen or superbug.

Another way diseases learn to defeat antibiotics is when you only take part of your prescription. Your symptoms may be relieved when the infectious bacteria are only partly beaten back. Please take your full course of antibiotics as described, or you risk the infection coming back, without an antibiotic to treat it.

And please remember another reason to resort to antibiotics with care: they kill millions of essential probiotic bacteria in your gut, along with the targeted bad bacteria. This leaves your immune system temporarily vulnerable…a consideration not to be ignored. If you’re not already taking a daily probiotic (which you should), you should absolutely take one while on antibiotics.

Bottom line: before you take an antibiotic, make sure (a) your doctor is positive that bacteria are causing your problem and (b) the antibiotic is the right one to kill the specific bacteria you’ve got. (Different antibiotics work on different bacteria.)

If your doctor can’t answer yes to both questions, you’re better off with a natural alternative.

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