Newly discovered antibiotics could be crucial in fighting drug-resistant bacteria.
Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia spoke with Yury Polikanov, assistant professor of biological sciences at University of Illinois at Chicago, about what this new discovery means for the future of antibiotics.
The long-term effects of antibiotic usage
Yury Polikanov: It’s worse in the places where antibiotics have been used a lot. The main reason for this emergence of these drug-resistant bugs is actually the fact that we have used these antibiotics for so long, and sometimes stupidly. Let’s say you’re trying to treat a runny nose, for example, so clearly the conditions which should not be treated with antibiotics. Every exposure to the drug actually increases the chances of resistance among the bugs. That’s what makes them so deadly.
The importance of the discovery
Polikanov: The pre-existing mechanisms of resistance are likely not to work against this new class of antibiotics we have discovered. Every drug, every antibiotic works on a particular target. That’s how resistance appears. So the target has become insensitive to the drug. And when the drug binds to a new target, to a new place, it’s unlikely that whatever existed before will work against the same target.
The status of the these antibiotics in medicine
Polikanov: This class has been tested on animals in the laboratory. What that means is we have clear evidence that this class can cure the infection in a test animal, such as mice.
Of course, it is a matter of several years before the clinical trials on humans will finish. And hopefully, if we get the green light, it will see the real patients in the clinic.
Time as challenge in antibiotic research
Polikanov: If we stop looking for new antibiotics, for the new classes, then eventually all of the ones which we already have in use will become useless. It’s like a time bomb.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire interview, which was adapted for the web by Bea Aldrich.