Researchers studying naturally occurring antibiotics have isolated one which eradicated the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, potentially offering a revolutionary treatment for the pathogen in both humans, and the natural environment.
Hygromycin A, which the scientists found in a screen of soil microbes, was found to clear the infection of B. burgdorferi, the bacteria found in tiny worm-like parasites which cause much of the worst effects of the disease, without harming the rest of the microbiome in live mice and human cells.
A debilitating disease that can put some people out of action for years, Lyme disease affects 500,000 Americans annually, costing an excess of $3 billion in medical care, and much more from lost labor hours. It drives a variety of pathologies, some minor, some major, and is treated principally by non-selective antibiotics which wreck havoc on the beneficial bacterial communities we all carry on our skin and in the gut.
After infecting mice with B. burgdorferi, hygromycin A, was administered twice a day for five days. Using a PCR test which stimulates rapid replication of even single cells, the treatment proved to clear every last trace of the infection.
Furthermore, in vitro tests on human cells found that even at completely unnecessarily-high doses, its therapeutic index was up there with some of the safest over-the-counter medicines.
Hygromycin A targets these worm-like spirochetes, which along with Lyme disease, also cause other diseases. Another spirochete cleared by hygromycin A is called T. pallidum, which not only causes syphilis, but has been a notable recipient of antibiotic resistance.