Are microscopic vampires the superbug solution?
On the surface, it's like fighting fire with fire: kill drug-resistant "superbugs" by sending another, more powerful, strain of bacteria after them.
Researchers have found two bacteria -- Micavibrio aeruginosavorus and Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus -- that feed on others like microscopic vampires, sucking even hardy drug-resistant bacteria flat in no time.
In lab experiments, these little monsters went right after the Klebsiella pneumoniae that cause lung infections, the Pseudomonas aeruginosa often responsible for respiratory infections in cystic fibrosis patients, and Acinetobacter, which is often acquired in hospitals and can cause serious infections in wounds.
Will it work? Maybe... briefly... but you'll have to excuse me for not getting too excited over this.
First, even the researchers admit in the Journal of Applied Microbiology that there's a chance the human immune system will wipe these bacteria out before they have a chance to attack the drug-resistant bugs that are making you sick.
Second, if they do work... then what? The idea of introducing an "invasive species" into the human body rubs me wrong, because I can't help but wonder what they'll do next -- after all the bad bacteria have been wiped out.
They could permanently change the makeup of your own body, which includes all the necessary bacteria that live inside you. They might even go after those good bacteria, putting you at an even greater risk of illness.
And third, if they don't kill everyone -- and I mean every last one -- of the drug-resistant bacteria, the survivors will have a chance to fight back and reestablish themselves, and this time they may be able to resist the new bacteria.
Then, it's back to the drawing board.
There's a much more effective solution -- and that's to dramatically cut back on antibiotic use, and not just all the unnecessary prescriptions we're given for every cough and sniffle.
Our livestock consume 70 percent of all antibiotics in this nation -- and that means you take a low-dose drug every time you eat factory-farmed meat.
And for most Americans, that's every single day.
It's bacteria heaven -- and the main reason so many of the most common bugs can now fight off even the most powerful drugs: They've had plenty of practice.
About the author
William Campbell Douglass I.I., M.D. has been called "the conscience of modern medicine."
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