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05/25/2014 09:53 EDT | Updated 05/25/2014 09:59 EDT

Antibiotic Resistance May Have Met Its Match

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UBC scientists may have won a battle in the ongoing fight against antibiotic resistance.

Researchers with the university have found that a peptide known as 1018 can help prevent bacteria from causing infections that can be difficult to cure, according to a study that was published in the PLOS Pathogens journal on Thursday.

"Currently there is a severe problem with antibiotic-resistant organisms," lead author Dr. Bob Hancock said in a statement. "Our entire arsenal of antibiotics is gradually losing effectiveness."

Much bacteria that grows on skin, lungs and the heart originates in biofilms, little strips of organisms that are known to cause two-thirds of infections in humans, said a UBC news release.

The bacteria from biofilms are more resistant to antibiotics and there is no approved treatment for the infections they cause.

Hancock's study found that 1018 can stop biofilms from forming, or even destroy the strips altogether. It also works on antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as E. coli, MRSA (or Mercer) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

“Our strategy represents a significant advance in the search for new agents that specifically target bacterial biofilms," Hancock said.

And the discovery doesn't come a moment too soon. The World Health Organization (WHO) identified antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" as a global threat in a report earlier this month, finding that bacteria were resistant to antibiotics and "last resort" drugs in both wealthy and impoverished countries.

"Effective antibiotics have been one of the pillars allowing us to live longer, live healthier, and benefit from modern medicine," said Dr. Keiji Fekuda, WHO assistant-director for health security.

"Unless we take significant actions to improve efforts to prevent infections and also change how we produce, prescribe and use antibiotics, the world will lose more and more of these global public health goods and the implications will be devastating."

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