Antibiotics have saved countless lives for the better part of a century, but these medical marvels may be approaching the end of their usefulness. Thanks to overuse, bacteria are rapidly evolving resistance to our best drugs, prompting scientists to try to develop new ones. Now, a team at Purdue University has found that a compound called F6 is effective at killing bacteria that have already evolved resistance to existing antibiotics. In tests, the new drug also seems less susceptible to bacterial resistance down the track.
The discovery and use of antibiotics was one of the greatest scientific achievements of the 20th century, as previously-dangerous procedures quickly became safe and infections relatively easy to treat. But after decades of overuse and overprescription, bacteria are fighting back, with more and more antibiotics becoming ineffective – including some of our last lines of defense. If left unaddressed, the problem is predicted to worsen until these so-called superbugs are killing up to 10 million people a year by 2050.
In an effort to stem the tide, researchers are searching for new drug candidates in places as varied as rattlesnake venom, tobacco flowers, honey, maple syrup, berries, fungi, and both human and platypus milk. Other techniques involve developing new bacteria-killing materials, gels, lights and coatings, weakening bugs genetically, or even enlisting predatory bacteria to fight on our side.