New Antibiotic Alternative Traps and Eats Bacterial Toxins

BEC Crew | Science Alert | November 6, 2014

Researches in Switzerland have come up with what could be a viable alternative to antibiotics - cell structures called liposomes that can bait, trap and neutralise deadly bacterial toxins. 

As much trouble as we seem to be in right now due to the creeping issue of antibiotic resistance, imagine what the world would've looked like if the first antibiotic - penicillin - wasn’t discovered almost 90 years ago. We owe a great deal to this fungi-derived wonder-drug, but our absolute reliance on it has now put us at risk.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 23,000 people die each year around the world as a direct result of an infection by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the World Health Organisation has called antimicrobial resistance an increasingly serious threat to global public health. "New resistance mechanisms emerge and spread globally threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases, resulting in death and disability of individuals who until recently could continue a normal course of life," the organisation says on its website. "Without urgent, coordinated action, the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries, which have been treatable for decades, can once again kill."

It’s pretty scary stuff, but a team of Swiss researchers from the University of Bern has come up with something that could be a solution. Publishing in the journalNature Biotechnology, the team describes how liposomes - tiny, artificially prepared bubbles made from cell membrane material and used to deliver drugs for cancer, Hepatitis, influenza, and HIV-related diseases - can be used to destroy deadly bacterial toxins. Led by cell biologists Eduard Babiychuk and Annette Draeger, the team engineered their liposomes to act like decoys, drawing toxic secretions away from bacteria so they can isolate and neutralise them...