Though the name might be misleading, superbugs are not “super” “bugs”. Superbugs are actually strains of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites that are resistant to most antibiotics. Superbugs are resistant to drugs developed by humans to kill them and are becoming a major issue. Researchers from the University of Sheffield have found that MRSA superbugs undergo genetic mutations that allow them to become resistant to antibiotics like penicillin, Phys.org reports.
The MRSA superbug
The research, published in the journal PLoS Pathogens, found that the MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) undergoes genetic mutations that allow it to become extremely resistive to antibiotic treatment. The researchers also found that the potency of MSRA to cause diseases was not even hindered by the antibiotics.
MRSA is a superbug (bacteria) that is responsible for many difficult-to-treat bacterial infections in humans. Although most MRSA infections aren’t severe, some can be life-threatening, leading to the amputation of the affected limb.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has declared that there are about 2.8 million cases of MRSA infection, resulting in 35,000 death every year in the United States. Every 15 minutes someone in the US dies due to drug-resistant superbugs. The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance says that superbugs could kill 10 million people a year by 2050.
MRSA’s resistive ability comes from a new gene in a protein called MecA that makes up its cell wall. Most strains of MRSA have a small amount of resistivity, but some strains even develop very high resistance to antibiotics. This is similar to how many superbugs develop mechanisms like biofilm formation to develop resistance against antibiotics. The research further reveals that critical antibiotics such as penicillin and methicillin do not bind well to the MecA protein, thus explaining why the bacteria remain resistive.
Antibiotics have been a mainstay of human healthcare for over 70 years, but the emergence of antimicrobial resistance is now a global catastrophe. In order to combat antimicrobial resistant organisms, we have to understand them. Our work uncovers the complex mechanisms that underpin resistance, giving insight into how we might tackle this global challenge.Simon Foster, Principal Investigator of the research, University of Sheffield
The researchers’ next step will be to analyze how other factors that promote antibiotic resistivity in superbugs complement the new protein. The goal is to gather enough data to one day develop a treatment that can be effective against MRSA.
The research provides a new outlook into the process of evolution of resistance and reveals important details of how MRSA is so resistant. We can now exploit these findings to develop new cures.Dr. Viralkumar Panchal, leader of the research, University of Sheffield
Blue light therapy: A superbug treatment
There have been experiments that have shown that blue light therapy could be used to treat superbugs. Such treatment has also indicated that human cells are not harmed by the non-toxic wavelength of light being used.
Blue light therapy can also be useful for diabetic patients as high blood sugar can predispose them to diabetic ulcers in the lower extremities. Open wounds that do not heal soon are highly susceptible to MRSA, again for which blue light therapy could be useful.
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