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OSU scientist's finding may turn tide in battle against antibiotic-resistant germs

OSU photo - Bruce Geller.PNG

In a worldwide effort to address ever-more-common antibiotic-resistant germs, researchers at Oregon State University announced this month a research finding by one of their professors that may end up turning the tide.

According to a recent release, a microbiology research professor at OSU was part of an international effort to combat the increasing frequency of bacteria that seems to be resistant to typical antibiotic treatments. The group's collective findings show a specific molecule (read more here) has the ability to combat the mechanism that makes some bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

In short: It doesn't directly fight the bacteria. Instead, it disables a specific defense so that antibiotics can do their job.

"We’re targeting a resistance mechanism that’s shared by a whole bunch of pathogens,” said Bruce Geller, an OSU professor who’s been researching molecular medicine for more than a decade. “We’ve lost the ability to use many of our mainstream antibiotics. Everything’s resistant to them now. That’s left us to try to develop new drugs to stay one step ahead of the bacteria."

World leaders approved a wide-ranging declaration last fall aimed at addressing the rising number of drug-resistant infections — something the World Health Organization says has the potential to kill millions and undermine the global economy, likening it to "a slow-motion tsunami."

A 2014 report commissioned by the United Kingdom projected that by 2050, drug resistance will kill more people each year than cancer and cost the world as much as $100 trillion in lost economic output. The World Bank estimates that drug-resistant infections have the potential to cause at least as much economic damage as the 2008 financial crisis.

Speaking at the adoption of the declaration, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the dimensions of the problem were rapidly becoming apparent.

"Antimicrobial resistance poses a fundamental, long-term threat to human health, sustainable food production and development," Ban said. "In all parts of the world, in developing and developed countries; in rural and urban areas; in hospitals; on farms and in communities. We are losing our ability to protect both people and animals from life-threatening infections."

As far as household preventative measures go, the CDC and the FDA have found no evidence that anti-bacterial soaps do much any anything to fight germs.

"To date, studies have shown that there is no added health benefit for consumers (this does not include professionals in the healthcare setting) using soaps containing antibacterial ingredients compared with using plain soap," reads the CDC website.

Geller says the study's findings and the molecule, funded by a National Institutes of Health grant, will likely be ready for testing in humans in about three years.

  • Read a more in-depth explanation from OSU here.

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[The Associated Press contributed to this report.]

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