Sunday, February 15, 2009

Algeferin Conquers Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria: Too Good to be True?

An intriguing report from Science News touts the discovery of algeferin, a chemical from sponges. Algerferin said to be able to reprogram antibiotic resistant bacteria to make them susceptible to antibiotics again. Preliminary tests against "superbugs" (such as MRSA) and biofilms are said to be very promising.

The potential for treating biofilms, clusters of bacteria that cause serious nosocomial (hospital acquired) infections by adhering to foreign devices, such as IV catheters, is quite intriguing, as such infections are particularly difficult to treat. Especially notable was the statement that biofilms "dissolved when treated with fragments of the algeferin molecule. And new biofilms did not form."

Thus far, algeferin has been tested against a variety of resistant organisms, including MRSA and Pseudomonas. That the chemical can restore bacterial susceptibility to antibiotics would be terrific, if it holds up. We are running out of effective antibiotics, which are often irresponsibly squandered (from bacterial resistance partly due to inappropriate use of these drugs for viral illness and in “animal growth” feed, for example). Resistant bacteria are also spread throughout hospitals and nursing homes by ineffective or sometimes irrational infection control policies, as well as by carelessness and increasingly harried staff.

The promise of algeferin is quite exciting...but based on the history of antibiotic development, misuse, and resistance, I have little doubt the bacteria will outsmart algeferin--or its prescribers-- too.