An Alternative to Antibiotics

Antibiotics are among the greatest achievements of medical science, but we have learned to treat them with caution. This once-perceived all-purpose weapon has failed in the battle against infectious diseases and bacteria are increasingly developing resistance to antibiotics. The good news is that researchers have now found a therapeutic equivalent which could replace penicillin and related drugs.

The World Health Organization is warning about resistance to drugs which were once so potent as more pathogens are becoming immune to antibiotics and some bacteria can no longer be combated WHO figures show that in 2010 nearly half-a-million people were infected with a strain of tuberculosis which is resistant to many antibiotics and that one third of those infected died.

The growing spread of resistant pathogens is directly attributable to the indiscriminate use of penicillin and other antibiotics so congratulations to the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology in Leipzig who have found an alternative to the established antibiotics. In the future, antimicrobial peptides will take up the battle against pathogens.

They have already identified 20 of these short chains of amino acids which kill numerous microbes, including enterococci, yeasts and molds, as well as human pathogenic bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans, which is found in the human oral cavity and causes tooth decay. Even the multi-resistant hospital bug Staphylococcus aureus is not immune, and in their tests its growth was considerably inhibited. Antibiotic peptides unlock their microbicidal effect within a few minutes and work at a far lower concentration compared with conventional antibiotics. Another key factor is that the peptides identified in the tests do not harm healthy body cells.

Not just us, but also our food could benefit from the antimicrobial peptides given that the bacterial contamination of food products costs the industry billions every year. Fresh lettuce, for example, are badly contaminated by yeasts and molds and this breakthrough means that the shelf-life could be improved by adding antimicrobial peptides during the production process.

We are still not there yet, so in the meantime if you want to fight infection and bacteria there are some natural aids you can use instead. Garlic, aloe vera and Echinacea have been in use for years and a relative newcomer is grapefruit seed extract which is a very powerful natural antibiotic.