The (Possible) Answer to Fighting Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

As more bacteria are becoming resistant to medication, including a life-threatening superbug, researchers from the University of Exeter in England may have found a new technique to combat the obstacle.

As more bacteria are becoming resistant to medication, including a life-threatening superbug, researchers from the University of Exeter in England may have found a new technique to combat the obstacle.

In order to effectively treat stubborn bacterial infections and prevent immunity to antibiotics, evidence found by lead author Robert Beardmore, PhD, and colleagues points to ‘sequential treatments’ as the answer.

To test their hypothesis, the team administered treatments of doxycycline (DOX) and erythromycin (ERY) twice a day on test-tube Escherichia Coli (E. Coli).

“By the term sequential treatment, we mean the following protocol: one of the two drugs is used in season 1, and, whether ERY or DOX, it may be re-used in season 2, or, alternatively, the other drug may be deployed instead,” the authors wrote in the study published on POLI While the bacteria would normally begin developing a resistance if just one drug was used, the experiment revealed that using 2 antibiotics during treatment could kill the infection. It also showed that the sequential treatments were more successful than using just a single drug even when the latter was a higher dosage.

“Our study finds a complex relationship between dose, bacterial population densities and drug resistance,” Beardmore said in a news release. “As we demonstrate, it is possible to reduce bacterial load to zero at dosages that are usually said to be sub lethal and, therefore, are assumed to select for increased drug resistance.”

The often used ‘cocktail treatment’ combines multiple drugs during one session while the sequential treatment does not exceed a single drug per session. Although the findings showed that technique prevented sustained bacteria growth, it was noted that the sequential treatments “didn’t suppress the rise of all drug resistance mutations in the bacteria.”

The minimal amount of data that is available on sequential treatment opens the door for further research.

“One outcome of this highly surprising result will be to set in motion a series of studies to determine ways of using antibiotics not only in combination, but sequentially and with the potential for lower dosages than is currently thought possible,” Jessica Plucain, PhD, one of the study’s researchers said.