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article imageViruses in the gut may have created ‘superbugs’

By Tim Sandle     Jun 12, 2013 in Science
Scientists have a new site for treating problem bacteria in the gut: the viruses that also live within our digestive tract.
One common way to treat certain bacterial infections is with antibiotics. One of the main problems in recent years has been with some pathogenic bacteria becoming resistant to common types of antibiotics. This is a serious global public-health threat and it has led to a hunt for new types of antibiotics.
For example, Professor Dame Sally Davies, the UK's chief medical officer, said recently that: “We haven't as a society globally incentivised making antibiotics. It's quite simple - if they make something to treat high blood pressure or diabetes and it works, we will use it on our patients every day. Whereas antibiotics will only be used for a week or two when they're needed, and then they have a limited life span because of resistance developing anyway.”
One thing that puzzles scientist are the different ways that bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics. It has been shown, through studies on mice, that certain gut viruses (bacteriophages) deliver genes that help the bacteria to survive the antibiotic that they have been exposed to. This suggests that one of the ways that bacteria are becoming antibiotic resistant is through the activities of such viruses.
Knowing this, however, means that scientists have a new route to experiment with in finding ways to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria.
The findings have been published in the science journal Nature. The paper is titled “Antibiotic treatment expands the resistance reservoir and ecological network of the phage metagenome.”
More about virsus, Bacteria, Guts, Superbugs, Pathogens
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