Bristol scientists looking to create drugs to combat threat of antibiotic resistance
Bristol scientists are trying to establish how to develop a new generation of drugs to combat the “catastrophic threat” of antibiotic resistance.they are looking at the science not developing the drugs
The Government’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, warned today that the risk of resistance to the drugs is a “ticking time-bomb” for the UK and the rest of the world, stating the threat was important as the issue of climate change.
Bristol University lecturer in microbiology, Jim Spencer, said that work is being carried out in the city to establish how bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotics in the hope of working out how to develop drugs that can target the resistance.
“The hope is we can exploit this information to develop new and better drugs,” he said.
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The aim is to create antibiotics that are “tried and tested” but to combine them with something that will “knock out the resistance mechanism”, Dr Spencer said.
“I think the strategy we are using, focusing on extending the lifetime of known antibiotics is a good one. It is something that researchers have failed to do in the last few decades.”
But he said that when the science reaches that stage researchers will need to work with pharmaceutical companies to develop the drugs.
Dame Sally’s annual report highlighted that, while a new infectious disease has been discovered nearly every year over the past 30 years, there have been very few new antibiotics developed leaving our armoury nearly empty as diseases evolve and become resistant to existing drugs.
In addition to encouraging development of new drugs, the report highlighed that looking after the current arsenal of antibiotics is equally important.
This means using better hygiene measures to prevent infections, prescribing fewer antibiotics and making sure they are only prescribed when needed.
Dr Spencer described Dame Sally’s report as “good and balanced”.
“I think what she is highlighting is the fact that we are seeing a marked increase in infections by bacteria resistant to most, if not all, suitable antibiotics.
“If we don’t do anything about it in the next few years we may be in the position in 20 years time where there is a problem.”
Dr Spencer explained that antibiotic resistance is something that is now out in the environment due to the exchange of genes between bacteria.
He agreed that Dame Sally has made good suggestions in her report, in terms of infection control in hospitals and taking more care in the prescribing of antibiotics.
“People being prescribed antibiotics need to be aware that it is not always appropriate and sometimes they have to accept they have a viral infection and taking antibiotics will not do anything about that.
“We need to get better at diagnosing infections early in order to make a quick and effective decision about the best drugs to give rather than the tendency at the moment to give the most powerful drug.”