Antibiotics are among the greatest achievements of medical science. But lately the former multi-purpose weapon fails in the battle against infectious diseases. Bacteria are increasingly developing resistance to antibiotics. Researchers have now found a therapeutic equivalent which could replace penicillin and related phamaceuticals.
More and more pathogens are becoming immune to antibiotics. Some bacteria can no longer be combated. The World Health Organization WHO is warning about resistance to drugs which were once so potent. The WHO's director-general Margaret Chan has pointed out that if measures are not taken quickly, it may soon not be possible to treat many frequently occurring infections. Figures released by the WHO show that in 2010 nearly half-a-million people were infected with a strain of tuberculosis which is resistant to many antibiotics one third of those infected died. The Organization states that the growing spread of resistant pathogens is attributable to the indiscriminate use of penicillin and other antibiotics.
Research scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI in Leipzig have found an alternative to the established antibiotics. In the future, antimicrobial peptides will take up the battle against pathogens. "We have already identified 20 of these short chains of amino acids which kill numerous microbes, including enterococci, yeasts and molds, as well as human pathogenic bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans, which is found in the human oral cavity and causes tooth decay. Even the multi-resistant hospital bug Staphylococcus aureus is not immune, and in our tests its growth was considerably inhibited," says Dr. Andreas Schubert, group manager at Fraunhofer IZI.
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