British scientists have developed an antibiotic from human breast milk that can combat certain drug-resistant bacteria known as superbugs.
The breakthrough opens a new front in the fight against superbugs, a threat that UK PM David Cameron has warned cou-ld plunge modern medicine “back into the Dark Ages”. According to a report in the Times, a panel set up by Cameron to tackle antibiotic-resistant bugs forecast that they would cost the world ten million lives and £700 billion a year by 2050 if the problem went unchecked. At present the infections kill about 700,000 people each year, including at least 10,000 in the UK.
Unlike most conventional antibiotics, the new drug attacks the basic biology of bacteria in a way that makes it almost impossible for them to evolve defences. Developed at the National Physical Laboratory in southwest London, the drug can tear bacteria apart within a fraction of a second.
It could also be used to treat genetic diseases such as sickle-cell anaemia by rewriting a cell’s DNA, its inventors said. Scientists rigged up part of the protein into an artificial virus that rapidly bursts bacteria while leaving human cells alone. The drug acts as a microscopic “projectile”, killing infectious bugs such as E.Coli and Staphylococcus aureus at a rate comparable to established antibiotics.
The discovery gives new hope the fight against superbugs, as the chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies told the Times she is confident new antibiotics will be discovered. “We need on average 10 new antibiotics every decade,” she said. “So I don’t just want some for my old age: I want them for my children’s old age.” The findings were appeared in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal.