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Innovative Treatment May Help in Fight Against Antibiotic-Resistant “Superbugs”

August 09, 2016

Scientists from the United Kingdom have pioneered a new treatment to prevent bacterial skin infections that could be used to battle “superbugs” in health care facilities, according to their published findings in PLOS One.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are the cause of 1 in 4 infections among patients in long-term care hospitals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Patients with drug-resistant infections such as MRSA are estimated to be 64% more likely die than individuals with a non-resistant form of the infection.
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Researchers used proteins found in human cells called tetraspanins to make it more difficult for bacteria to attach to skin wounds such as bedsores and pressure ulcers. Use of the proteins has been proven to effectively treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria in previous studies, according the news release.

This treatment was trialed on a model of 3D tissue engineered skin (TEskin) developed by Sheila Macneil, PhD, also from the University, which mimics the tissue structure of normal adult skin and can model infected wounds. Unlike conventional antibiotics, the tetraspanin proteins do not directly kill bacteria and so do not encourage the evolution of resistance.

Lead study author Pete Monk, PhD, University of Sheffield’s Department of Infection (UK), said: “The therapy could be administered to patients using a gel or cream and could work well as a dressing. We’re hoping it can reach [the] clinical trials stage in the next three to five years.”

Dr Macneil said: “This research is a new way to fight bacteria that does not add to antibiotic resistance. Rather than try to kill bacteria, this approach uses a knowledge of how they normally attach to skin cells to reduce their ability to attach.” —Amanda Del Signore

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