“The time that might come”

in which we live

SynCell News • May 26, 2020

S

eptember 1928, St Mary’s Hospital Medical School at the University of London. Sir Alex Fleming returned from his summer holiday in Scotland and began to sort through Petri dishes containing colonies of Staphylococcus, a bacterium that causes boils, sore throats, and abscesses. He noticed something unusual on one of the plates. It was dotted with colonies, except for one area where a blob of mold was growing. The zone immediately around the mold (later identified as a rare strain of Penicillium notatum) was evident as if it had secreted something that inhibited bacterial growth.

The father of the antibiotic era was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, along with Howard Florey and Ernst Chain on 1945. In his speech, he shared a cautionary thought: “The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself, and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.” What seemed a vague prophecy turned out to be one of the biggest healthcare concerns that we are facing nowadays. The overuse of antibiotics, partly because of inappropriate prescribing, led many types of bacteria to develop antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to antibiotics.

AMR is a phenomenon that gives bacteria the ability to resist the effects of antibiotics. That dramatically decreases the effectiveness of these drugs, that otherwise would easily kill bacteria. AMR moved humanity to the post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill. AMR does not distinguish among the economic or social level, requiring treatments that are more expensive and more difficult to manage than the ones we used to have.

How does AMR work?

Let us picture a regular patient who just contracted a bacterial infection. Many bacteria are making them sick, so they take an antibiotic. Some of those bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, while others are not. Antibiotics kill most of them, but the resistant bacteria will survive.

Within a few treatments, the antibiotics become useless.

Unfortunately, the antibiotic killed most of the good bacteria that protected their body from infection. Therefore, the resistant bacteria, with plenty of space, nutrients, and no other bacteria around, multiply, proliferate, and as a result, the patient’s situation worsens. Resistant bacteria will eventually reach other bacteria, and they will share their drug-resistance genes to the others. Within a few treatments, the antibiotics become useless, since resistant bacteria exponentially grow Therefore, it begins the spread.

Each year in the U.S., at least 2.8 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria or fungi, and more than 35,000 people die as a result. AMR has become a silent killer, with the burden of resistance increasing over time, therefore leading to an uncertain and dark future where we will need to fight those bacterial infections with weapons other than antibiotics.

To avoid a future like that and provide some light along the way, SynCell Biotechnology is producing novel and alternative weapons to fight AMR that do not rely in the use of antibiotics, as a compromise for those who lost the battle, those who fight now and those who dream with a future where AMR is just a bad nightmare.