Outsmarting antibiotic resistance

Since their introduction, antibiotics have been considered wonder drugs in the fight against germs. But with their overuse, germs have begun to fight back. Now, a Rutgers University microbiologist is working on a possible solution.

TRANSCRIPT

SINCE THE INTRODUCTION OF ANTIBIOTICS IN THE MID-20th CENTURY, PENICILLIN AND ITS DERIVATIVES HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED WONDER DRUGS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST GERMS, BUT WITH OVERUSE, OVER TIME, GERMS HAVE BEGUN TO OUTSMART THESE ONCE-DEPENDABLE ANTIBIOTICS.

NOW A RUTGERS UNIVERSITY MICROBIOLOGIST IS WORKING ON A NEW GENRE OF DRUGS TO ATTACK DISEASES WE KNOW ABOUT AND PERHAPS ONES WE REPORTER MICHAEL HILL HAS THE STORY.

IT'S DEFINITELY A GRIM SITUATION.

MICROBIOLOGIST DANIEL KADOURI ECHOES THE WARNINGS OF THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION.

THEY CALL IT AN URGENT, SERIOUS THREAT TO PUBLIC HEALTH -- DISEASES THAT RESIST ANTIBIOTICS BECAUSE GERMS EVOLVE AND ANTIBIOTICS HAVE BEEN OVERUSED AND ABUSED, EVEN ON THE FARM TO MAKE ANIMALS GROW FASTER.

WHAT WE DID IN THE LAST FEW YEARS IS WE PUSHED THE ENVELOPE.

THE SCIENTIST SAYS THAT'S LEFT TREATING PHYSICIANS WITH FEW OPTIONS.

THEY CAN TRY A COCKTAIL OF DRUGS OR RESORT TO SURGERY, INCLUDING AMPUTATION, BUT DR. KADOURI PLANS TO CHANGE THAT.

ONE OF THE THINGS WE'RE DOING IS GOING BACK TO NATURE, AND IN NATURE, THERE'S PREDATORS AND THERE'S PREYS, AND THERE'S BACTERIA THAT CAN ATTACK OTHER BACTERIA.

WITH A $7 MILLION U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT GRANT, DR. KADOURI IS LEADING AN INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH TEAM TO EXAMINE HOW THE PREDATORY BACTERIA THEY GROW IN LABS CAN KILL THE MICROORGANISMS THAT CAUSE PLAGUE AND DISEASES, LIKE LUNG INFECTIONS, THAT ARE RESISTANT TO ANTIBIOTICS.

IT'S BACTERIA THAT WILL ATTACH TO OTHER BACTERIA.

SOME OF THEM WILL ACTUALLY PENETRATE THE OTHER BACTERIA AND GROW INSIDE, THEN BURST OUTSIDE, AND SOME OF THEM WILL ATTACH FROM THE OUTSIDE, THEN BASICALLY FEED ON THEM LIKE VAMPIRES.

IT'S A COMPLETELY NOVEL WAY TO THINK ABOUT TREATMENT.

INFECTIOUS-DISEASE DOCTOR NANCY CONNELL IS PART OF THE TEAM AND SAYS THINK OF IT THIS WAY -- SOME PEOPLE USE YOGURT TO TREAT INFECTIONS BECAUSE IT HAS THE NATURAL BACTERIA ACIDOPHILUS.

ORGANISMS CAN BECOME RESISTANT TO THE CHEMICAL , AND THEN WE HAVE TO THROW IT AWAY.

WE CAN'T USE IT ANYMORE.

BUT WITH THESE LIVE ANTIBIOTICS, THEY CAN ACTUALLY CHANGE AND FIGURE OUT A NEW WAY TO ATTACK BAD ORGANISMS.

IT'S THE SECOND PHASE OF A STUDY THAT BEGAN MORE THAN A DECADE AGO.

THIS ONE, WITH THE HELP OF RESEARCHERS FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH, WALTER REED ARMY INSTITUTE OF RESEARCH, AND HEBREW UNIVERSITY IN JERUSALEM, WILL DETERMINE WHETHER THE LAB-GROWN PATHOGENS CAN KILL INFECTIONS AND DISEASES WITHOUT BEING TOXIC TO ANIMALS AND PATIENTS.

RIGHT NOW RESEARCHERS SAY THEY'RE NONTOXIC TO MICE.

DR. KADOURI SAYS THE CLOCK IS TICKING.

THIS IS SOMETHING THAT HUMANITY NEEDS.

IT'S SOMETHING WE NEED TO NOW INVEST AND HAVE A PIPELINE, BECAUSE NOW WE STILL HAVE SOME ANTIBIOTICS.

WE STILL CAN TREAT BACTERIA WITH SOME ANTIBIOTICS.

THE DAY WILL COME -- AND, ACTUALLY, IT'S GONNA PROBABLY BE VERY SOON -- THAT WE'LL NOT, SO WE WANT TO BE SURE THAT WE INVEST RESOURCES IN BUILDING UP OUR ARSENAL.

THE DOCTORS SAY DON'T EXPECT ANY NEW ANTIBIOTICS TOMORROW BASED ON THEIR RESEARCH, BUT THEY SAY, LONG-TERM, LOOK FOR THE KIND OF ANTIBIOTICS THAT WILL SAVE LIVES.