Are antibiotics becoming obsolete?

By: Virgil Jacobs | Contributing AOJ Journalist

  Antibiotics “Although initially it was the source of miraculous cures for a variety of infections that were previously difficult or impossible to treat, it was not long before the problem of resistance to antibiotics that had been developed occurred.” The rate of bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics has “Really increased to crisis level proportions” According to the collective minds of FDA Biologists, and Pherecydes Pharma. The real concern of modern medicine is bacteria becoming immune to the antibiotics we have, It’s a premonition to the fear that once held humanity in the dark ages. When bacteria ruled as our greatest enemy. Pharma’s goal is to take bacteria’s worst enemy against it, the phages. Pharma is an organization determined to “explore the use of phage therapy to treat complicated urinary tract infections,” Which has had successful cases.

What are bacteriophages? (with the help of https://youtu.be/YI3tsmFsrOg“)

  Bacteriophages are microscopic organisms with the following anatomy: an isotopic-shaped head, a ring around the stem known as a collar, a tube structure that connects the head to the bottom called a sheath, which then connects to a flat disc called the baseplate, below that, there are tiny spikes that are used to latch onto the desired target, then six tail fibers. The Phage is a Virus; its purpose is to find bacteria and connect itself to it, then implant replication of itself in order to kill the bacteria, as well as further the species.

The Potential Application of Bacteriophages

  Something to be noted is that the Soviet Union actually practiced using viruses to cure infections; the reason is because of the Berlin Wall, Western medicine, which had been more advanced, was not able to reach or be obtained by the Soviets. “In a post-antibiotic world, infection cures you!” The practice has been used, however, at a very minimum version since “water from certain rivers could cure infectious diseases like leprosy and cholera.” Scientists then, after all this time, in the 1900’s to now were curious and took another look; they found certain microscopic organisms, ones like the phage that would actually find the infection in a person and destroy it. The organisms would target certain bacteria that it liked the most, or which it’s designed to destroy. Typically, this is what would happen; however, it is possible that these microorganisms could also become our greatest enemy, and it’s something we must be prepared for if we take phages and other types of organisms just as we view antibiotics.

The genetics need to be analyzed, if phages or other organisms are planned to be used as a replacement for antibiotics, their evolution patterns and factors will need to be certain in understanding, if not, there is going to be an uncertain outcome to what might happen if they’re used. Say someone has a urinary tract infection, just as the pharmacy agency focuses on, what will happen if the phages evolve to perhaps target our cells instead of ignore them? The consequences would be unknown, and not good for our species. Using the single example of phages: Their process has been defined as finding the disease or bacteria that they are designed to target. After that, the phages will hold onto their victim with their tail fibers. The phage then moves down towards the bacteria and connects the spikes that are below the stem of the phage. Next, the phage will inject other phages into the bacteria until it becomes so compressed it explodes, releasing more phages in the process. This could be incredibly dangerous if the genetic code of the microorganism will learn to target people. Perhaps killing our cells and immune system, depending on what they evolved to do. Another factor is that it also is reliant on the history of the genome of phages; a certain genome may be historically only able to attack one species, and it will most likely evolve to combat that species of bacteria more effectively. The danger should be reduced if this train of thought is proved as accurate. All that we have for now are assumptions based on evolution theory and vague practices. 

The problem with antibiotics, isn’t necessarily the drugs, rather the bugs! “Every year, about 2 million people get sick from superbugs.” Superbugs are categorized as bacteria that are resistant to most commonly used antibiotics. The name is more or less known by the public as “cannot be killed using multiple antibiotics” right now. If you visit the doctor, you usually expect antibiotics to solve the sickness you have. An example of a strain of superbug is MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Many of the drugs made to combat MRSA, the superbug has become immune to, such as “Methicillin, Amoxicillin, Penicillin, Oxacillin, and other common antibiotics known as cephalosporins.” MRSA does this by activating a certain gene, in this case, the mecA gene. This gene focuses on making certain codes that will protect the bacteria directly from the antibiotic; it was able to evolve due to the amount of antibiotics being used, and able to combat antibiotics after being able to learn their structure. This may be in part due to the amount of antibiotics used, in 2015, “269 million antibiotic prescriptions were distributed to patients through outpatient pharmacies in the US.”

Evolution of the Multi-resistant drug.

  Vertical Transmission is when the parent of a child has a disease and then passes it on to the child because of the genetic transmission between them. It gives the Superbug a chance to evolve because of its host. The environment that the strain is engulfed in will determine the options that the superbug has to make itself mutate, instead of just randomly waiting to mutate itself. If the father and/or mother hold a resistant gene type, then there is an opening where the Superbug can obtain that resistant gene while generations move further, and thus, there’s more chances for the superbug to obtain resistance. 

  Horizontal Transfer is the transmission of diseases from one person to another, or perhaps one to a group. It’s done through certain contacts such as bodily liquids including blood. These two things open up a door for the Superbug(s). Plasmids, which are certain types of liquids, are observed to contain more than one gene type that codes and forms resistance. By coming into contact with this, The Superbug(s) might gain even more resistance to the antibiotics by absorbing the strains that have defensive capabilities and code. This is and will be a major problem, superbugs will continue to grow and multiply, and will slowly become more dangerous as time goes on. Simply, from the amount of antibiotics, the need for natural selection will become pressured to create even more resistance in mutation, transmissions and transfers in genetics. 

   According to “https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/pages/2017-04-25-novel-phage-therapy-saves-patient-with-multidrug-resistant-bacterial-infection.aspx”,  Patterson was a 69 year old Professor, He was traveling for thanksgiving in Egypt, and according to reports, he was “wracked by abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, and a racing heartbeat.” The report on his illness said he had pancreatitis. But “Standard treatment didn’t help” His physical body was feeling fatigued and his mental state kept worsening based on the pain.  When he was transferred to Frankfurt Germany Dec. 3, 2015. He was then diagnosed with Acinetobacter baumannii, but It had evolved and morphed into a Multi-Resistant superbug, which was immune to the antibiotics made to cure it. During a long, pain-filled experience he was asked by his wife Strathdee if he wanted to try phage therapy. “In Patterson’s case, the phages were introduced through catheters into his abdominal cavity and intravenously to address a broader, systemic infection, which had not been done in the antibiotic era in the U.S.” After three days of undergoing the phage therapy, he awoke from the coma that the bacteria put him in. Apparently, after being cured by IV Phage Therapy, “Tom woke up, turned to his daughter and said, ‘I love you’, recalled Schooley.”

Conclusion

The future of antibiotics may be fading with the way things are heading in the world of superbugs today. Superbugs are becoming more advanced every day, and the antibiotics stay the same. Even if doctors were to find breakthrough after breakthrough in the field of antibiotics, the bacteria would by natural selection become more dangerous, as well as in an idle state become more powerful through genetic transfers and transmissions. Phages and other microorganisms might be the key to solving this issue, an issue that is growing rapidly and becoming more of an epidemic with each passing day. The call to do something is becoming too great to ignore phages and other types of treatment besides antibiotics. The threat is looming and research is growing to supply that demand. The next step is close, but Humanity doesn’t know where we’ll place it. 

Citations

Shiel Jr., W. C. (2018, December 27). Definition of Vertical transmission. Retrieved from https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=7982 

LaFee, S., & Buschman, H. (2017, April 25). Novel Phage Therapy Saves Patient with Multidrug-Resistant Bacterial Infection. Retrieved from https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/pages/2017-04-25-novel-phage-therapy-saves-patient-with-multidrug-resistant-bacterial-infection.aspx 

Mercedes Transcription Inc. (2018, May 21). How Many Antibiotics Are Prescribed Each Year in the US. Retrieved from https://www.mercedestranscription.com/how-many-antibiotics-are-prescribed-each-year-in-the-us/ 

Understanding Evolution. (2008, April). Superbug, super-fast evolution. Retrieved from https://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/news/080401_mrsa 

Glass, R. G. (n.d.). Why is MRSA an antibiotic resistant infection? Retrieved from https://www.sharecare.com/health/mrsa-staph-skin-infection/mrsa-an-antibiotic-resistant-infection 

Stapleton, P. D., & Taylor, P. W. (2007, November 7). Methicillin resistance in Staphylococcus aureus: mechanisms and modulation. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2065735/ 

WebMD. (n.d.). Understanding MRSA Infection. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/understanding-mrsa#1 

Miller, K. (2015, April 17). Superbugs: What They Are and How You Get Them. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/news/20150417/superbugs-what-they-are#1 


Sifferlin, A. (2017, December 18). This Last-Resort Medical Treatment Offers Hope in the Fight Against Superbugs. Retrieved from https://time.com/5068513/superbugs-are-nearly-impossible-to-fight/

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