This medical illustration depicts methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, one of many bacterial superbugs that are no longer susceptible to some antibiotics. (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Fairmont Preparatory Academy

Superbugs — smaller than ants, stronger than humans

While the recent development of antibiotics has significantly reinforced our resistance to bacteria, they evolved, and formed a stronger version of itself, which are called superbugs, according to a 2015 L.A. Times article.

The superbugs have become ever-so-powerful and thus have outrun many antibiotics — until the study of biotechnology came into play. The recent developments of the following three methods have implied our dominance over the powerful superbugs.

Molecular drills 

Most notably, the “molecular drills,” developed by James Tour at Rice University, proved to be effective in killing the superbugs in a short time period. According to Tour and Robert Pal, the drills are “paddle-like molecules that can be prompted to spin at 3 million rotations per second when activated with light.” They claimed that the robust lipid bilayer of the bacteria, which was impenetrable with antibodies, could be penetrated with the molecular drills, which is not chemical action.

They further elaborated about its implication that the nanomachines may see their most “immediate impact in treating skin, wound, catheter or implant infections caused by bacteria.” Although the costliness of the machines remain as the method’s shortcoming, its rapidness and precision implies a promising future to exterminate the supervirus.

Maple Syrup

Another key to fight the superbugs can be found in a rather familiar place: your kitchen. Oddly enough, scientists have found a way to extract phenolic compounds from a maple syrup which is very effective in fighting a supervirus.

In the recent research done by Nathalie Tufenkji and her research team, Tufenkji found that the phenolic compounds from maple syrups can be combined with existing antibiotics, which dramatically reduces the amount of antibiotics needed by 90%.

The compounds tend to increase “outer membrane permeability, restrain bacterial metabolism and repress the genes associated with drug resistance genes and bacterial mobility,” according to Neoscope.

Although the study has not been finalized yet, the fact that the compound is found in our daily breakfast makes the result very promising. 

Visualization 

To actually make the methods explained above viable, one must “find” the superbugs firsthand. This is why researchers from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the University of Sheffield have developed a creative way to visualize the superbugs.

The newly developed compound from Sheffield and RAL glows with the exposure to light. The uptake of this substance by the superbug implies that scientists can track the bacteria with advanced microscope technology, according to researchers from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the University of Sheffield. The compound is also found to deteriorate the resistance of the bacteria.

Despite its big implication in fighting the superbugs, the study is still in its incipient stage, and the next step the researchers aim to achieve is to test its effectiveness on other multi-resistant bacteria.

As the three researches mentioned above suggest, while the rate of evolution of the superbugs still seem unreachable, the scientists are making slow, but certain improvements in antibiotics. And it seems very probable that one day, we will stand victorious against the powerful superbugs.