Few things strike the same added fear in both patients and medical providers like superbugs. What are these pesky little creatures? Put simply, they are bacteria that have become resistant to several, if not all, antibiotics. As recently as October 2, 2016, CNBC’s web site posted an article discussing the threat of these superbugs.
This is very personal to me as both my grandfather and father-in-law died from one of these infections. The CDC’s website states “at least two million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections.” These super bacteria go by the names of MRSA, CRE, and VRE. You can look here to find the bacteria threat level of these bugs as laid out by the CDC.
Even more worrisome is the fact that a forty-nine-year-old woman from Pennsylvania was found to have Colistin resistant E. coli in her urine. Colistin is considered the drug of last resort for different types of superbug infections.
All that could change if Shu Lam, a twenty-five-year-old PhD student from the University of Melbourne, has anything to do with it. She’s created a polymer (like a ninja killing star) that is annihilating these superbugs without the use of antibiotics and doing it very successfully by tearing open the cell wall of the bacteria that then initiates a death spiral in the bacteria itself.
I am giving her a standing ovation. Strong work!
Thus far, the polymer has only worked in a petri dish against six strains and one superbug in live mice. What’s good news even about this is that so far the bacteria haven’t become resistant to the polymer.
The polymers are called SNAPPs (structurally nanoengineered antimicrobial peptide polymers). The theory behind their highly successful kill rate is that they completely destroy all the bacteria. What typically happens in drug resistance is the few bacteria that survive the antibiotic go on to propagate little tiny soldiers with some new weaponry– leading to drug resistance. And, even better, SNAPPs don’t affect healthy cells due to their size. Click this link for a photo of the SNAPPs at work.
SNAPPs are Killing Superbugs. Click here to tweet.
I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that Shu Lam’s SNAPPs make it to human trials and become as successful in treating serious bacterial infections as they have in the lab. The amount of lives that could be saved would be staggering.
To learn more about Shu Lam click here.
What are SNAPPs and how are they killing drug resistant bacteria? Click here to tweet.