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I know someone who has an implant known as Deep Brain Stimulator, and which has given him significant relief from advancing Parkinson's Disease. He's in his early 60's so it's enabled him to remain reasonably active and to enjoy one of the great pleasures of his life, gardening. However, recently he had a fall in the garden and cut his leg in several places, and for a time there was a real fear that if the wounds became infected, then bacteria could spread to his implant and create a Bio-film on the surface. Unfortunately, the only way in which this sort of infection could be “got rid of”, was by removing his implant. If that happened, then he would literally freeze and not be able to move. It would devastate his life.
One of the challenges of modern medicine is to be able to counter the effects of Bacteria that not only cause serious infections, but have the ability to colonize metallic surfaces and are all but resistant to every known antibiotic, and it’s this ability of bacteria to create bio-films that is the cause of the problem. But all this may be about to change.
Science reports this week of some interesting information on why bio-films become resistant to antibiotics and provide clues as to how Doctors can use this information to allow antibiotics to work effectively.
Apparently it’s all to do with the need for nourishment, without which all things will starve, including bacteria. In a bio-film, the top layer of bugs consume the food first leaving the inner bacteria literally starving, but lead researcher Dr Dao Nguyen and his team discovered that these starving bacteria are the ones that are virtually impossible to kill. Scientists have known for some time that when bacteria sense that their nutrient supply is deteriorating they “issue a chemical alarm”, so Nguyen and his team devised an experiment to see if this was also the way that the bacteria developed its antibiotic resistance: and it looks like it is.
“Our experiments suggest that antibiotic efficacy could be increased by disrupting key bacterial functions that have no obvious connection to antibiotic activity” he reports.
In another unrelated report, Nano-Scientists have produced a biodegradable particle that has an electrostatic attraction to bacterial cells, and not healthy human cells, disrupting their cell membranes and killing them. This opens up alternative approaches to treating infections without the need to use discover more powerful antibiotics.
It looks like life is going to get fairly tough for those pesky bacteria in the near future, and not before time too!