Quantcast

How Scientists Are Combating ‘Superbugs’: 4 Essential Reads

Science
Pexels

By Bijal Trivedi

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report on Nov. 13 that describes a list of microorganisms that have become resistant to antibiotics and pose a serious threat to public health. Each year these so-called superbugs cause more than 2.8 million infections in the U.S. and kill more than 35,000 people.


The CDC listed 18 species of bacteria and fungi that are of greatest concern. The fear is that these superbugs could spread resistance to other disease-causing organisms, rendering modern medicines' most powerful weapons useless.

At the same time, many scholars across the U.S. are addressing the problem and coming up with innovative solutions to fight these microscopic threats. Here we spotlight four examples from our 2018-2019 archives.

1. Consistent Rules for Hospitals With Superbugs

Infectious disease physician-scientist David Pride explains why incremental improvements of current antibiotics are not effective, and how the rules for containing antibiotic resistant bacteria differ from hospital to hospital exacerbating the spread of these deadly microbes. He presents an ambitious plan for curbing the rise of superbugs. That includes adopting common protocols across hospitals for when, and which, antibiotics are prescribed to stop inappropriate and over use. He also underscores the need to administer fewer antibiotics in livestock.

2. Viruses to the Rescue

It is well known that the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Andrew Camilli and Minmin Yen write about how they and other researchers are exploiting this idea to enlist bacteria-killing viruses, called bacteriophages, to wipe out superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics. These researchers are focusing on using bacteriophages to kill off the cholera bacterium in the gut to prevent infection. But these viral cocktails are also proving effective against other infections.

3. Smart Antibiotics

One problem with current antibiotics is that they don't discriminate between the disease causing microbes and the beneficial ones that make up our microbiome and are essential to good health. David B. Stewart and Arun K. Sharma describe how they are designing nanotechnology to carry inexpensive targeted drugs that only kill Clostridioides difficile, a microbe that the CDC has classified in this new report as an urgent threat.

4. Deadly Fungi?

You might be under the impression that all of the microbes on the CDC's list of public health threats are bacteria. But three — 20 percent of those mentioned in the report — are fungi. The most worrisome new foe is called Candida auris. With limited drugs to fight fungal infections, Carol A. Kumamoto and Jesus A. Romo write about how they are studying a less dangerous fungal relative, C. albicans to identify the vulnerabilities of this treacherous fungus.

Editor's note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation's archives.

Reposted with permission from The Conversation.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Two tankers leaving the Tamborine Mountain after being held up for two hours by TM Extinction Rebellion on Dec. 6.

A school in Queensland, Australia sent a note home to parents asking them to send their children with extra water bottles since its water supply has run dry, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Read More Show Less
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a press statement on the European Green Deal at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on Dec. 11, 2019. Xinhua / Zheng Huansong via Getty Images

The European Commission introduced a plan to overhaul the bloc's economy to more sustainable, climate-conscious policies and infrastructure, with the goal of being carbon-neutral by 2050, according to CNBC.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Young activists shout slogans on stage after Greta Thunberg (not in the picture) took part in the plenary session during the COP25 Climate Conference on Dec. 11 in Madrid, Spain. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Young activists took over and occupied the main stage at the COP25 climate conference in Madrid, Spain Wednesday and demanded world leaders commit to far more ambitious action to address the ecological emergency.

Read More Show Less
A NASA image showing the ozone hole at its maximum extent for 2015. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The Montreal Protocol, a 1987 international treaty prohibiting the production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to save the ozone layer, was the first successful multilateral agreement to successfully slow the rate of global warming, according to new research. Now, experts argue that similar measures may lend hope to the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
Example of starlings murmuration pictured in Scotland. Tanya Hart / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Police in Wales are in the midst of an unusual investigation: the sudden death of more than 200 starlings.

Read More Show Less