With the excessive use of antibiotics for various kinds of treatments, it was obvious to predict that at one point or another the bacteria will become resistant to these chemicals. However, what really came as an unexpected shock to many medical researchers was the fact that some bacteria have even started consuming these drugs as their food.
It is estimated by the international team of scientists working on this project that the alarming situation of ineffectiveness of drugs against these bacteria will cause up to 10 million deaths per annum by the year 2050. This approximation has put all the medical specialists in a state of frenzy hence, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have set out to understand the basics of the phenomenon used by these drug-eating-bacteria. Gautam Dantas, an author of the study, states, “But now it’s beginning to make sense. It’s just carbon, and wherever there’s carbon, somebody will figure out how to eat it. Now that we understand how these bacteria do it, we can start thinking of ways to use this ability to get rid of antibiotics where they are causing harm.”
The team monitored the activities of four different species of soil bacteria which solely relied on penicillin for their nutrient requirements. It was found out that these bugs first release ß-lactamase to counteract the toxin produced by the drug and following that, the bugs put special enzymes, produced by their cells, on work to break down drugs into pieces which they can easily consume. While this discovery is a terrible news for the medical practitioners around the world, environment engineers could not be happier since these bacteria can be used to clean up the antibiotic spills found in the agricultural and industrial waste. The clever idea proposed by the environment researchers can however only be put to use after detailed engineering of these microbes to speed up their process of degradation of antibiotics.
You can read up more about the topic from the research published in the journal, Nature Chemical Biology.