Scientists have been warning people of the increase in antibiotic resistance bacterial infections. New antibiotics are slow to develop, and doctors are over prescribing treatments. An article published in 2017 reviewed that culmination of several years of research into a specific bacteria, Bdellovibrio. This bacterium is unique in the fact that it uses other Gram negative bacteria as a fuel source. One proposed application of Bdellovibrio is as a “live” antibiotic. In other words, scientists want to infect people who are already infected with a drug-resistant bacteria in order to cure the first infection. Yes, a bacteria is used to kill another bacteria. A new Alien vs. Predator.
Alien: Drug-resistant bacteria
Priority Candidates: Acinetobacter,
Hazards: pneumonia, sepsis, bacteremia, folliculitis, nosocomial infections, drug-resistance
Abilities: Enters bacterial host by force, enzyme breakdown of cell contents, replication, progeny release
This idea is 10+ years of research and testing before even approaching clinical trials. But, this is the sort of innovative approach allows scientists to avoid the common resistance pathways that treating infections with antibiotics exploits.
Bdellovibrio infections have been shown in zebrafish and chickens to attack lethal infections of Shigella flexneri to raise the survival rate from 0% to 65% in some trials while not harming the host. The mechanism of attack by Bdellovibrio was described in a paper published in 2016:
Bdellovibrio enters a bacterial host by forcing itself between the cell wall and inner membrane, where it secretes an enzymes cocktail that breaks down the host cell’s content. Next, the Bdellovibrio bacterium replicates and eventually bursts out of the host. Once the Bdellovibiro bacteria removes the initial infection, it is also cleared from the host by the immune system. This is very promising research that can be used to eliminate the need for designing new antibiotics that will take just as long as Bdellovibrio treatments to reach clinical trials.
A. R. Willis et al. Injections of predatory bacteria work alongside host immune cells to treat Shigella infection in zebrafish larvae. Current Biology. Vol. 26, December 19, 2016, p 3343. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.09.067.
Eaton, E. (2017). Live antibiotics use bacteria to kill bacteria. [online] Science News. Available at: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/live-antibiotics-use-bacteria-kill-bacteria